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The Stannis Plan and why he wrote the Pink Letter 2.0

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This post examines Stannis’ plan from the moment he decided to turn north to “save the kingdom” as a means to winning the Iron Throne. It looks at his motives, political and military objectives, the strategies he employs to achieve his goals, and will demonstrate how the Pink Letter neatly dovetails with these objectives. It will scrutinize the letter, highlight clues of authorship, and propose the letter’s purpose. It’s a long and detailed read but the conclusions are summarized at the end.

Dragonstone.

After his defeat on the Blackwater, Stannis looked over the painted table at Dragonstone and saw that his options were few.

"I have thirteen hundred men on Dragonstone, another three hundred at Storm's End." His hand swept over the Painted Table. "The rest of Westeros is in the hands of my foes. I have no fleet but Salladhor Saan's. No coin to hire sellswords. No prospect of plunder or glory to lure freeriders to my cause."

At that time, Tywin was consolidating the Lannister position at King’s Landing and the garrison at Storm’s End was under siege. The Reach had declared for King Joffery. There was little room for political manoeuvre in Dorne or the Vale, both had stayed out of the war and were not likely to change their position for Stannis. The fighting was ongoing in the Riverlands between King Robb and King Joffery’s forces, but Stannis rejected the suggestion of an alliance with the King in the North, whom he saw as a rebel. Meanwhile, the Ironmen invaded the north at the command of another rebel king, Balon.

Then Robb and Balon died, and their deaths greatly altered the political landscape. The King-in-the-North was dead, betrayed by his own bannerman, who was in turn rewarded by the Lannisters with the title of Warden of the North. This created an opening for Stannis as it is safe to assume that some of the northern lords, who had only recently raised Robb to King in the North and essentially declared independence from the Iron Throne, would not be content to be back under the yoke of King Joffery by extension of the treacherous and dishonourable Boltons. Stannis saw a way back into the war.

Stannis considered the Painted Table. "The wolf leaves no heirs, the kraken too many. The lions will devour them unless . . . Saan, I will require your fastest ships to carry envoys to the Iron Islands and White Harbor. I shall offer pardons." The way he snapped his teeth showed how little he liked that word. "Full pardons, for all those who repent of treason and swear fealty to their rightful king. They must see . . ."

"They will not." Melisandre's voice was soft. "I am sorry, Your Grace. This is not an end. More false kings will soon rise to take up the crowns of those who've died."

Stannis believed the lions would devour the wolves and kraken unless they united under him. Mel insisted they would not and warned that instead new kings would rise up to take the place of those who’d died.

“If sometimes I have mistaken a warning for a prophecy or a prophecy for a warning, the fault lies in the reader, not the book. But this I know for a certainty—envoys and pardons will not serve you now, no more than leeches. You must show the realm a sign. A sign that proves your power!"

Mel urged Stannis to burn Edric Storm so that she could use her magic to show the realm a sign that proved his power. Stannis considered it, even rationalized it in his own mind, but then Davos removed that particular option. Soon after, Davos presented the king with an alternative, a letter from Castle Black, a plea for help from the Night’s Watch to the kings and lords of Westeros.

"We fear Mormont slain with all his strength . . ." Davos suddenly realized just what he was reading. He turned the letter over, and saw that the wax that had sealed it had been black. "This is from the Night's Watch. Maester, has King Stannis seen this letter?"

Stannis seized upon the idea, sailing north to save the kingdom from a Wildling invasion. In his mind this was an opportunity to distinguish himself as the only king who answered the call and came to the defence of the realm. This would be the sign to the realm that proved his power and his worthiness to rule, or so he hoped.

"Yes, I should have come sooner. If not for my Hand, I might not have come at all. Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne."

Save the Kingdom.

Up to this point, Stannis had been trying to win the Iron Throne in order to save the Seven Kingdoms from the immoral, divisive, and dishonourable reign that has been unlawfully imposed by the Lannisters.

"I am king. Wants do not enter into it. I have a duty to my daughter. To the realm. Even to Robert. He loved me but little, I know, yet he was my brother. The Lannister woman gave him horns and made a motley fool of him. She may have murdered him as well, as she murdered Jon Arryn and Ned Stark. For such crimes there must be justice. Starting with Cersei and her abominations. But only starting. I mean to scour that court clean. As Robert should have done, after the Trident. Ser Barristan once told me that the rot in King Aerys's reign began with Varys. The eunuch should never have been pardoned. No more than the Kingslayer."

To Stannis, saving the kingdom means more than saving it from a Wildling invasion. It also means bringing justice to the realm; and if he can’t start with King’s Landing then there is no better place to start than in the North, where the injustice of Lannister rule is so glaringly evident.

"Tywin Lannister has named Roose Bolton his Warden of the North, to reward him for betraying your brother.”

Correcting that injustice would only support the “lawful king” image he portrays. While Stannis once tried to win the throne in order to bring law and justice to the realm from the position of king, he was now trying to bring law and justice to the realm in order to win the throne. Save the kingdom had become a means but win the throne was now the end.   

Stannis sailed to Eastwatch-by-the-sea with clear objectives in mind, knowing that he needed to defeat the wildlings and unite the north before he could ever hope to turn his gaze south towards King’s Landing.

Wildlings.

Once Stannis smashed Mance Rayder beyond the Wall, he decided it was best to bind the remnants of Mance’s host to his cause rather than continue to war with them or risk having turned by the Others. The North and the Wildlings are traditional enemies so sealing a peace between them was essential. He planned to settle the wildlings on the Gift and make them part of his kingdom, while marrying the “wildling princess” to his Lord of Winterfell to bolster the deal, in typically southron fashion.

Sam reddened. King Stannis had plans for Val, he knew; she was the mortar with which he meant to seal the peace between the northmen and the free folk.

Ned Stark once had a similar plan to settle the Gift with new lords as a shield against the wildings.

His lord father had once talked about raising new lords and settling them in the abandoned holdfasts as a shield against wildlings. The plan would have required the Watch to yield back a large part of the Gift, but his uncle Benjen believed the Lord Commander could be won around, so long as the new lordlings paid taxes to Castle Black rather than Winterfell. "It is a dream for spring, though," Lord Eddard had said. "Even the promise of land will not lure men north with a winter coming on."

Luring men north was not the issue for Stannis. To advance his plan he first needed his own Lord of Winterfell to replace the treacherous Boltons, the Lannister appointed rulers of the north, with someone loyal to him who could rally the north to his cause. For this purpose Stannis turns to the obvious choice and makes the offer to Jon at their very first meeting.

“I am the only true king in Westeros, north or south. And you are Ned Stark's bastard." Stannis studied him with those dark blue eyes. "Tywin Lannister has named Roose Bolton his Warden of the North, to reward him for betraying your brother. The ironmen are fighting amongst themselves since Balon Greyjoy's death, yet they still hold Moat Cailin, Deepwood Motte, Torrhen's Square, and most of the Stony Shore. Your father's lands are bleeding, and I have neither the strength nor the time to stanch the wounds. What is needed is a Lord of Winterfell. A loyal Lord of Winterfell."

He is looking at me, Jon thought, stunned. "Winterfell is no more. Theon Greyjoy put it to the torch."

"Granite does not burn easily," Stannis said. "The castle can be rebuilt, in time. It's not the walls that make a lord, it's the man. Your northmen do not know me, have no reason to love me, yet I will need their strength in the battles yet to come. I need a son of Eddard Stark to win them to my banner."

Stannis expands on his plan for Jon.

"My father dreamed of resettling the Gift," Jon admitted. "He and my uncle Benjen used to talk of it." He never thought of settling it with wildlings, though . . . but he never rode with wildlings, either. He did not fool himself; the free folk would make for unruly subjects and dangerous neighbors. Yet when he weighed Ygritte's red hair against the cold blue eyes of the wights, the choice was easy. "I agree."

"Good," King Stannis said, "for the surest way to seal a new alliance is with a marriage. I mean to wed my Lord of Winterfell to this wildling princess."

Taking both together, we can see that the ideal solution for Stannis was Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, married to the wildling princess Val. Stannis would hope that such a marriage would bring both the north and the wildlings to his cause, united under his Warden of the North in Winterfell. That would give him the swords he needs to advance his campaign against the Lannisters, while the wildlings settled on the Gift would bolster the defence of the Wall as he pushes south with his northern swords.

That was the plan, although achieving it would not be straight forward. Jon explained why.

Your men call Val a princess, but to the free folk she is only the sister of their king's dead wife. If you force her to marry a man she does not want, she is like to slit his throat on their wedding night. Even if she accepts her husband, that does not mean the wildlings will follow him, or you. The only man who can bind them to your cause is Mance Rayder."

"I know that," Stannis said, unhappily. "I have spent hours speaking with the man. He knows much and more of our true enemy, and there is cunning in him, I'll grant you. Even if he were to renounce his kingship, though, the man remains an oathbreaker. Suffer one deserter to live, and you encourage others to desert. No. Laws should be made of iron, not of pudding. Mance Rayder's life is forfeit by every law of the Seven Kingdoms."

"The law ends at the Wall, Your Grace. You could make good use of Mance."

Mance.

That Mance knows much and more about the true enemy is important, but he has another value. Jon told Stannis that Mance is the only man who could bind the Wildlings to his cause. This is common in Westeros, the king keeps lords loyal to him, the lords keep their smallfolk loyal to them, and by extension loyal to the king. Sometimes these loyalties are enforced by wards or hostages like Theon Greyjoy or Hoster Blackwood. Ned spoke of making new lords on the Gift, and if Stannis planned on settling the Gift with wildlings, then Mance would be the natural choice as their lord, especially when Stannis holds Mance’s son as a hostage, or a potential ward to the Lord of Winterfell and his wildling princess wife. And where better to position someone who knows much and more about the true enemy than near the Wall.

The big problem is, as a Night’s Watch oath-breaker, Mance’s life is forfeit by all the laws of the Seven Kingdoms. Here we get a very clear example of how Stannis solves problems in order to keep his options open. Despite all Stannis said about laws being made of iron not pudding, he was quick to take advantage of this legal loophole of sorts and burn Rattleshirt north of the Wall, beyond the realm and the extent of the law. This allowed him to keep Mance alive without tarnishing his image as a “lawful” king.

"Stannis burned the wrong man."

"No." The wildling grinned at him through a mouth of brown and broken teeth. "He burned the man he had to burn, for all the world to see. We all do what we have to do, Snow. Even kings."

Mance revealed it was Stannis who burned the man he had to burn for all the world to see. And Mance, a king himself, understands this very well. He knows what kings will do to achieve their objectives.

"Our false king has a prickly manner," Melisandre told Jon Snow, "but he will not betray you. We hold his son, remember. And he owes you his very life."

"Me?" Snow sounded startled.

"Who else, my lord? Only his life's blood could pay for his crimes, your laws said, and Stannis Baratheon is not a man to go against the law … but as you said so sagely, the laws of men end at the Wall.”

Melisandre revealed it was Jon’s advice that prompted the solution for Stannis. The solution demonstrates that, though well-renowned for his unyielding approach to the law, Stannis is more than capable of engaging in subterfuge when it serves him to do so. Stannis is a player, not a piece, and in the game of thrones you win or you die, there is no middle ground.

So with Mance still alive to be revealed when the time is right, and peace to be sealed with the northmen by a marriage between Val and the Lord of Winterfell, Stannis only needed his Lord of Winterfell. However, his efforts to put this final piece in place proved most frustrating.

Jon and his Night’s Watch vows.

All he had to do was say the word, and he would be Jon Stark, and nevermore a Snow. All he had to do was pledge this king his fealty, and Winterfell was his. All he had to do . . . was forswear his vows again.

For Jon, the internal tug-o-war between Winterfell and his Night’s Watch vow continued all through his arc in ADwD. Stannis ignited this internal conflict and his repeated offers only further fed the flames, but Stannis has little choice but persists in his pursuit of Jon because Jon is central to his plan.

"No," Jon said, too quickly. It was Winterfell the king was speaking of, and Winterfell was not to be lightly refused. "I mean . . . this has all come very suddenly, Your Grace. Might I beg you for some time to consider?"

"As you wish. But consider quickly. I am not a patient man, as your black brothers are about to discover." Stannis put a thin, fleshless hand on Jon's shoulder. "Say nothing of what we've discussed here today. To anyone. But when you return, you need only bend your knee, lay your sword at my feet, and pledge yourself to my service, and you shall rise again as Jon Stark, the Lord of Winterfell."

Stannis asked again.

“Without a son of Winterfell to stand beside me, I can only hope to win the north by battle."

And again, ruling out Sansa as an alternative this time.

Jon said, "Winterfell belongs to my sister Sansa."

"I have heard all I need to hear of Lady Lannister and her claim." The king set the cup aside. "You could bring the north to me. Your father's bannermen would rally to the son of Eddard Stark. Even Lord Too-Fat-to-Sit-a-Horse. White Harbour would give me a ready source of supply and a secure base to which I could retreat at need. It is not too late to amend your folly, Snow. Take a knee and swear that bastard sword to me, and rise as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North."

While Jon is clearly sympathetic towards Stannis’ cause, aiding the king on several occasions, there is one significant obstacle that prevents him from joining that cause. His vows.

How many times will he make me say it? "My sword is sworn to the Night's Watch."

Stannis changed tactic slightly, playing on Jon’s emotions with the threat of Winterfell passing from his father’s line to a Karstark, and by implication essentially ending the Stark male line.

Stannis looked disgusted. "Your father was a stubborn man as well. Honor, he called it. Well, honor has its costs, as Lord Eddard learned to his sorrow. If it gives you any solace, Horpe and Massey are doomed to disappointment. I am more inclined to bestow Winterfell upon Arnolf Karstark. A good northman."

Stannis wisely inclined to choose a northman over his southron knights like Horpe and Massey. Still, Jon’s reaction to his father’s seat going to the Karstarks would not have escaped the king.

"A northman." Better a Karstark than a Bolton or a Greyjoy, Jon told himself, but the thought gave him little solace. "The Karstarks abandoned my brother amongst his enemies."

Jon openly declared his misgivings about the Karstarks and in doing so gave Stannis a first glimpse of a chink in his armour. If Jon was not happy about Winterfell going to distant Stark cousins, the Karstarks, because they abandoned Robb amongst his enemies, then what would he think about his father’s seat being held by Roose Bolton’s bastard? Stannis must have thought that with a little more persistence then perhaps there was still a chance he could get his man. But persistence takes time and that was not something Stannis had to spare.

Political Overtures.

On the grounds of his victory over Mance Rayder, Stannis expected the northern lords to pay him homage and side with him. When only Arnolf Karstark answered his call, it became clear that his victory over Mance would not give him the political traction he had hoped for.

"Two score ravens were sent out," the king complained, "yet we get no response but silence and defiance. Homage is the duty every leal subject owes his king. Yet your father's bannermen all turn their back on me, save the Karstarks. Is Arnolf Karstark the only man of honour in the north?"

Stannis must have been surprised at the lack of support for him against the treacherous Boltons, especially when Roose’s host was still south of the Neck at this time. Wyman Manderly sends Stannis an insulting letter while Lyanna Mormont’s reply clearly alluded to northern independence, an idea Stannis would have hoped had died with Robb Stark.

Stannis read from the letter. "Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is STARK. A girl of ten, you say, and she presumes to scold her lawful king." His close-cropped beard lay like a shadow over his hollow cheeks.

But Lyanna’ letter underlined the reverence with which the Stark name is held in the North. The following comes from Jon’s pov but no doubt Stannis was thinking the same thing. How many lords would have answered his summons if it had come through his Stark Lord of Winterfell?

He did not understand why Lyanna should be writing Stannis, and could not help but wonder if the girl's answer might have been different if the letter had been sealed with a direwolf instead of a crowned stag, and signed by Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell.

Stannis next move was to send his Hand to treat with Lord Manderly, as White Harbour is a key position in the north and the obvious place to start diplomatic efforts.

Stannis Baratheon had desperate need of White Harbour. If Winterfell was the heart of the north, White Harbour was its mouth. Its firth had remained free of ice even in the depths of winter for centuries. With winter coming on, that could mean much and more. So could the city's silver.

Once again the result was not as Stannis had hoped, with no news from Davos, and the Onion knight feared lost at sea.

So we can see how Arnolf Karstark emerged as the only candidate Stannis has to replace Jon as his Lord of Winterfell given that a southron lord would not be a popular choice. Karstarks did stem from house Stark a long time ago, but Arnolf is not even the Lord of the Karhold. That honour belongs to Harrion, who is a Lannister hostage. Alys is Harrion’s heir. Arnolf is merely the castellan. He’s not a particularly inspiring choice compared to the son of Eddard Stark, especially when the Karstarks abandoned the Young Wolf in the south.

Military manoeuvres.

“The Bastard of Bolton has gone south, taking Hother Umber with him. On that Mors Umber and Arnolf Karstark are agreed. That can only mean a strike at Moat Cailin, to open the way for his lord father to return to the north. The bastard must think I am too busy with the wildlings to trouble him. Well and good. The boy has shown me his throat. I mean to rip it out.”

Stannis’ first instinct was to move against the Dreadfort but Jon advised against it.

Jon glanced down at the map. "Deepwood Motte." He tapped it with a finger. "If Bolton means to fight the ironmen, so must you. Deepwood is a motte-and-bailey castle in the midst of thick forest, easy to creep up on unawares. A wooden castle, defended by an earthen dike and a palisade of logs. The going will be slower through the mountains, admittedly, but up there your host can move unseen, to emerge almost at the gates of Deepwood."

Stannis rubbed his jaw. "When Balon Greyjoy rose the first time, I beat the ironmen at sea, where they are fiercest. On land, taken unawares … aye. I have won a victory over the wildlings and their King-Beyond-the-Wall. If I can smash the ironmen as well, the north will know it has a king again."

Stannis saw the military and political advantages to such a move and took Jon’s sage advice once again, recruiting the northern clans along the way. The seat of House Glover was easily retaken and Asha Greyjoy captured. There, Stannis received news that the Boltons had moved on Winterfell. Meanwhile Mors Umber and Arnolf Karstark, Stannis’ new Lord of Winterfell in-waiting, were marching to join him.

Even prisoners have ears, and she had heard all the talk at Deepwood Motte, when King Stannis and his captains were debating this march. Ser Justin had opposed it from the start, along with many of the knights and lords who had come with Stannis from the south. But the wolves insisted; Roose Bolton could not be suffered to hold Winterfell, and the Ned's girl must be rescued from the clutches of his bastard.

Stannis had little choice but to march on Winterfell. The northmen, who make up a large portion of his army, insisted on it to begin with. And he gains nothing by delaying as it only gives Roose more time to restore the castle to its former strength. Stannis needs to move swiftly or not at all.

The king cut him off. "We all know what my brother would do. Robert would gallop up to the gates of Winterfell alone, break them with his warhammer, and ride through the rubble to slay Roose Bolton with his left hand and the Bastard with his right." Stannis rose to his feet. "I am not Robert. But we will march, and we will free Winterfell … or die in the attempt."

Robert was famous for his forced marches and midnight rides, but even he would have struggled with the weather. The march slowly reduced to a crawl and then ground to a halt. When Arnolf Karstark found Stannis snowed in at the crofter’s village, the king’s army was starving and freezing to death and had lost most of their horses. Stannis looked doomed, until 19 days after arriving at the village his luck changed dramatically with the arrival of Tycho, Reek and Arya, and a game-changing letter.

The Crofter’s Village.

The unexpected arrival was the catalyst for Stannis to start planning ahead, beyond Winterfell and the North, as evidenced by him sending Justin Massey to Braavos and the Disputed Lands if necessary to hire sellswords, something that will not be accomplished in time to help with the taking of Winterfell or the winning of the North. If indeed the sellswords should ever arrive, and that is a big IF for several reasons, then it’s much more likely that they will be used for the push south after the north has been secured.

It should be noted that Massey was forewarned about rumours of Stannis death, and instructed to return with the sellswords regardless of what he hears.

"It may be that we shall lose this battle," the king said grimly. "In Braavos you may hear that I am dead. It may even be true. You shall find my sellswords nonetheless."

The knight hesitated. "Your Grace, if you are dead — "

" — you will avenge my death, and seat my daughter on the Iron Throne. Or die in the attempt."

“It may even be true,” implies that there is a chance that it may not be true. Stannis knows he could lose the battle and his head at any time, so it is only natural for him to instruct Massey on how to act upon news of his death. But why would he imply that such news may not be true unless he was considering a plan that involved false news of his own death?

Theon.

Stannis also needed to consider his western flank, commanded by the Iron Isles. Theon is the son and lawful heir of Balon Greyjoy, with a better claim than Asha and male besides, and in Theon, Stannis faced the exact dilemma he faced with Mance; a life of a valuable asset is deemed forfeit by the law and by popular demand.

"I know what he wants." The king indicated Theon. "Him. Wull wants him dead. Flint, Norrey... all of them will want him dead. For the boys he slew. Vengeance for their precious Ned."

"Will you oblige them?"

"Just now, the turncloak is more use to me alive. He has knowledge we may need."

It’s no surprise that Stannis wanted to mine Theon for information, but he has value beyond that. His death would both appease the northmen and satisfy the law, true, but alive he might hold the key to the Iron Isles, much in the same way Mance holds the key to the Wildlings and Jon holds the key to the north. So perhaps we should expect Stannis to at least attempt to keep his options open as he did with Mance, keeping Theon alive with a view to using him at some time in the future. As we saw with Mance, Stannis will find a way to do whatever he needs to do to advance his position.

Battle of Ice.

"Bolton has blundered," the king declared. "All he had to do was sit inside his castle whilst we starved. Instead he has sent some portion of his strength forth to give us battle. His knights will be horsed, ours must fight afoot. His men will be well nourished, ours go into battle with empty bellies. It makes no matter. Ser Stupid, Lord Too-Fat, the Bastard, let them come. We hold the ground, and that I mean to turn to our advantage."

"The ground?" said Theon. "What ground? Here? This misbegotten tower? This wretched little village? You have no high ground here, no walls to hide beyond, no natural defences."

This was a monumental blunder by the Boltons, undoubtedly driven by rising tensions within the castle. Stannis was as good as dead, but now he has been presented with a way of taking the castle. “The ground” obviously refers to the frozen lakes, which have been holed in multiple places for ice fishing purposes.

"I know them lakes. You been on them like maggots on a corpse, hundreds o' you. Cut so many holes in the ice it's a bloody wonder more haven't fallen through. Out by the island, there's places look like a cheese the rats been at." He shook his head.

Those holes would probably have a thin layer of ice on them once again and a blanket of fresh snow.

The wind was swirling from the west, driving still more snow across the frozen surface of the lakes.

The lake is the only feature of the village that could be considered advantageous to Stannis. I don’t think the specific details are important here, the point is Stannis will win the battle by using “the ground” to his advantage.

Theon believes that Ramsay will be coming too, for his bride and his Reek, while Roose sits in Winterfell. While this is not confirmed, as we lost our pov in Winterfell once Theon leapt from the walls, the numbers do suggest the Freys will have some Bolton support. Stannis is reported to have 5,000. It is odd that Roose would send 1,400 Freys and 300 Manderlys of uncertain loyalty to deal with an army of that size, even if they are unhorsed and starving, when he has 4000 troops of his own in Winterfell as well as Ryswell, Dustin and Umber troops that he considers loyal. Given that Ramsay likes to hunt girls through the woods and would be seething at the thought of Reek escaping him, it is entirely plausible that he would go too, in command of a large Bolton force.

Roose’s intention is not just to rid himself of Stannis, but also the Manderlys, and probably reduce the Frey strength in the process. He is no stranger to such tactics, as we saw at Duskendale.

It should also be noted that if Theon is right, and Ramsay goes too, then the likelihood of Ramsay being in a position to receive false information about the battle, as some theories suggest, or send a raven to the Wall is greatly reduced.

"Answer me. If we were to loose these birds, would they return to the Dreadfort?" The king leaned forward. "Or might they fly for Winterfell instead?"

Maester Tybald pissed his robes. Theon could not see the dark stain spreading from where he hung, but the smell of piss was sharp and strong.

Taking Winterfell.

Thanks to the letter from Jon, Stannis uncovered the Karstark plot and the spy in his camp, the Dreadfort’s Maester Tybald. This letter demonstrates Jon is clearly invested in Stannis winning against the Boltons, and Stannis would have taken note of that. As the Boltons have no way of knowing their scheme has been foiled, Stannis is free to turn both the ravens and the Karstarks to his advantage. Tybald’s ravens are trained to fly to Winterfell, so Stannis will use one to send false news of a Bolton victory to Roose.

"Ser Richard, whilst I am breaking fast with Lord Arnolf, you are to disarm his men and take them into custody. Most will be asleep. Do them no harm, unless they resist. It may be they did not know. Question some upon that point... but sweetly. If they had no knowledge of this treachery, they shall have the chance to prove their loyalty."

The Boltons think the Karstarks belong to them, and Stannis will use that against them. They will head the “victorious” column returning to Winterfell, led by Arnolf or Arthor Karstark, both of whom Stannis spared, while the other is held hostage as a deterrent against further betrayal.

"You will not take Winterfell!"

"Aye, we will," came a cackle from the high table, where Arnolf Karstark sat with his son Arthor and three grandsons. Lord Arnolf shoved himself up, a vulture rising from its prey. One spotted hand clutched at his son's shoulder for support. "We'll take it for the Ned and for his daughter. Aye, and for the Young Wolf too, him who was so cruelly slaughtered. Me and mine will show the way, if need be.”

Lord Arnolf’s words would certainly seem to foreshadow the Karstarks leading the way into Winterfell. Stannis’ men will follow behind with Frey banners. The guards at Winterfell did not see Crowfood’s boys digging pits outside the gate so they are unlikely to see much more than the head of the column. Roose will already have had a raven proclaiming victory, what reason would he have to keep the gates closed to the victorious army led by a Karstark who Roose thinks is an ally?

A traditional assault with rams and towers would be costly on a well-defended double-walled castle, with little or no chance of success given his numbers. And Stannis does not have the capacity to sustain a siege. If he wants to take Winterfell then he has no choice but devise some ploy that will get his freezing and starving army into the castle as quickly as possible.

Once Stannis takes the castle he must next win the North to his cause or risk being considered another foreign invader sitting in Winterfell, no different than the Greyjoys. But Arnolf Karstark, his distant second choice to Jon, just crossed himself off the very short list of candidates. Furthermore, the Karstarks’ treachery was exposed by Jon of all people, enhancing his reputation as loyal in Stannis’ eyes.

Stannis next needs Jon to break his vows and finally accept the king’s offer. The question is, how can he make that happen? As it turns out, a letter was the quickest option given the distance between them. He had put it straight to Jon on several occasions and was refused every time, but the lesson of proudwing was not forgotten by Stannis.

“Proudwing, I named her. She would perch on my shoulder and flutter from room to room after me and take food from my hand, but she would not soar. Time and again I would take her hawking, but she never flew higher than the treetops. Robert called her Weakwing. He owned a gyrfalcon named Thunderclap who never missed her strike. One day our great-uncle Ser Harbert told me to try a different bird. I was making a fool of myself with Proudwing, he said, and he was right."

It was time to try another hawk. A pink hawk.

The Pink Letter.

Bastard, was the only word written outside the scroll. No Lord Snow or Jon Snow or Lord Commander. Simply Bastard. And the letter was sealed with a smear of hard pink wax. "You were right to come at once," Jon said. You were right to be afraid. He cracked the seal, flattened the parchment, and read.

Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore.

Your false king's friends are dead. Their heads upon the walls of Winterfell. Come see them, bastard. Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me.

I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.

I want my bride back. I want the false king's queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want his wildling princess. I want his little prince, the wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard's heart and eat it.

It was signed,

Ramsay Bolton,

Trueborn Lord of Winterfell.

The letter is clearly antagonistic in tone from the very outset. But let’s boil down what Stannis actually tells Jon, paragraph by paragraph, and assess how that information affects Jon.

It first informs Jon that the Boltons have already won against Stannis, removing any hope that Stannis might yet win and render the letter redundant.

It next accuses Jon of saving Mance, which Stannis knows is not true, and then sending him to kidnap the Lord of Winterfell’s bride. These are serious crimes punishable by death. The letter later informs Jon that there is proof of these crimes hanging in a cage at Winterfell, therefore Jon’s guilt is beyond question.

Stannis then informs Jon that “Arya” is no longer a hostage of the Boltons, removing her as a deterrent to Jon taking action.

The letter informs Jon that the man he sent to rescue Arya is dangling like a carrot in Winterfell, and that the women who helped him have all been skinned, underlining Ramsay’s cruel and dishonourable nature, which is so ill-suited to the seat of Eddard Stark. This gives Jon two clear motives upon which he can act, killing Ramsay and rescuing Mance.

The letter makes a list of demands, all of whom coincidentally have personal or political value to Stannis. And Stannis knows that complying with the letter and handing women and children over to Ramsay, considering the fate of the spearwives, is not an option that is likely to appeal to Jon.

Finally, the letter gives Jon an ultimatum, which leaves him with three logical options; comply with the demands, defy the letter and wait for Ramsay to come to him, or defy the letter and go to Ramsay. Given that Jon does not have Arya or Reek, full compliance is impossible, even if he wanted to comply. But Stannis has seen more than enough from Jon to make an accurate assessment of which option Jon is most likely to choose. Of course, if Jon does make that choice, as indeed he does, it means forswearing his vows.

“This creature who makes cloaks from the skins of women has sworn to cut my heart out, and I mean to make him answer for those words … but I will not ask my brothers to forswear their vows.”

That is exactly what Stannis wants.

Problem-reaction-solution.

Stannis is setting a trap of sorts for Jon using an old political strategy. Create a problem, wait for a reaction, and then step forward with the solution.

The letter created the problem. Stannis hoped and predicted Jon would react by breaking his vows and riding to Winterfell. If Jon had managed to do that he would have found Stannis in possession of the castle. Ramsay would be dead and the assumption would be that he wrote the letter sometime after he had been deceived by Stannis’ false message of a Bolton victory but before he died. And who could argue otherwise? At Castle Black ravens would have flown, with Bowen Marsh, still keen to appease King’s Landing, calling for Jon’s head as an oath breaker, leaving Stannis with a by-now familiar decision, the same one he faced with Mance and possibly Theon too, does he burn the man or do what he needs to do to keep him alive? With Jon’s vows already broken and death as the alternative, Stannis would hope that Jon finally sees sense and accept the king’s offer in return for a pardon, fulfilling Stannis simple problem-reaction-solution strategy.

Stannis and Theon’s fingerprints.

When we examine the letter in closer detail we see that there are some notable text-to-text connections in play.

Huge Spiky Hand- Both Jon, in a previous letter, and Asha at Deepwood Motte, make note of Ramsay’s huge spiky hand. This is somewhat odd given that the description comes from two different povs with different backgrounds. GRRM is very good a selecting adjectives that reflect the character of the person who uses the words. What is pale as ice to a northman is pale as sea foam to the Ironborn. White as snow in the north might be white as bone in Dorne. Red as a rose to Sansa, might be blood red to Arya. A huge spiky hand to one person might be a large jagged scrawl to another. This means that “huge spiky hand” is set up as a story-telling device, at the cost of Jon or Asha more realistically describing Ramsay’s hand in a similar yet different manner.

Its absence from the pink letter is a classic mystery-writing clue that the letter is not from Ramsay. This also applies to other characteristics that we have come to associate with Ramsay’s letters, like the use of blood for ink or a piece of skin to intimidate, or the signatures of the northern lords when flexing political muscle. GRRM could have used any or all of the above to clarify that the letter was indeed from Ramsay, but he tellingly chose not to.

I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore- A boast from Ramsay, perhaps. Or is it a clever hint from Stannis to Melisandre that the letter is a lie, as it clearly contradicts what she has seen in her flames. “Melisandre swears that she has seen me in her flames, facing the dark with Lightbringer raised on high. Lightbringer!"

Wildling Princess- Stannis and his men consider Val a wildling princess and therefore Stannis is the most likely potential author to have used this term. "Do I have your word that you will keep our princess closely?" the king had said, and Jon had promised that he would. Val is no princess, though. I told him that half a hundred times.

I want my bride back. And I want my Reek- This is almost a direct quote of what Theon said to Stannis, change of person aside, “He wants his bride back. He wants his Reek." Theon's laugh was half a titter, half a whimper, again making Stannis the most likely potential author to use those precise words.

I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.- Another clue that Theon was directly or indirectly responsible for some of the letter’s content. Theon heard Ramsay make a similar threat in the hall at Winterfell after Little Walder’s murder. "What man?" Ramsay demanded. "Give me his name. Point him out to me, boy, and I will make you a cloak of his skin."

Conclusion.

Jon is central to Stannis’ plan to unite the north and the wildlings under the king’s banner. He needs Jon to forswear his vows and be legitimized as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North, as well as marry Val and seal a peace with the wildlings, who will settle the Gift.

Jon refused the offer on several occasions, citing his vows as the reason. Stannis decided to stop asking Jon and try a different hawk, electing to make it happen using a problem-reaction-solution strategy designed to put Jon in a position where he could no longer refuse the king’s offer.

Stannis was the architect of the Pink Letter. The purpose of the letter was to provoke Jon into forswearing his vows and riding to Winterfell to confront Ramsay, where he would find Stannis waiting with a pardon in exchange for accepting the king’s offer of Winterfell.

Theon’s influence can be seen in the letter, but whether he helped Stannis craft the letter or Stannis simply used the information without Theon ever knowing anything about the letter is unclear. The later seems more likely because Stannis would want as few people as possible to know about the letter and Theon is not someone Stannis would consider trustworthy.

Tybald penned the letter, and Stannis signed for Ramsay. Tybald is craven and facing execution. I cannot see him refusing the request. And it is Stannis style to dictate to a maester. The seal showed a stag's head within a flaming heart. Stannis. Jon cracked the hardened wax, flattened the roll of parchment, read. A maester's hand, but the king's words. Even after this Tybald will at the very least loose his tongue or possibly still be executed.

The question as to when the Pink Letter was written remains open. All we can say for certain is that it was written sometime after Jeyne’s escape and before she reaches Castle Black. This was an 18 day journey for Jon and Tyrion in AGoT, but probably a lot more for Jeyne and company given the weather, assuming that at least one person from Jeyne’s party will eventually get there. That’s more than enough time for Stannis to win the battle at the crofters village, send word to Winterfell of a Frey victory, and gain entry to the castle disguised as the returning victors, all of which could be accomplished in several days. Add a couple of days for the raven to get to Castle Black and it would still be well ahead of Jeyne and company.

It’s hard to believe the letter was sent from the crofter’s village because there is no mention of ravens in the lengthy description of Stannis’ baggage train as it leaves Deepwood Motte, and it seems Tybald’s ravens are trained to fly to Winterfell. The letter must have been sent from Winterfell after Stannis had taken the castle.

A caveat on chronology.

It should be noted that the Battle of Ice was originally intended to be in ADwD, so would probably have come before the climactic Jon XIII in chapter order. GRRM has confirmed that some events at the start of TWoW do take place before some events at the end of ADwD. This was due to ADwD reaching the publishable limit in size, which meant that a number of chapters had to be bumped into TWoW.

For this theory to work, TWoW Theon I, Asha I (the Battle of Ice), and Theon II (Winterfell) must take place before ADwD Jon XIII.

I propose the taking of Winterfell will come from Theon because he is the one with the emotional connection to the castle, and therefore the better story-telling choice. Given that there will be several battles in various locations in the first half of TWoW, we should not be surprised if the taking of the castle will not be in real-time but relayed in retrospect by Theon, a technique GRRM has used several times in the story so far.

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A very well put together piece.Very convincing.

But as you know I can't set aside all the Mance associations in the letter.And I also think Mance wants Jon in Winterfell for more esoteric reasons.

I could see a Stannis-Mance-Theon collaboration after Winterfell is taken!

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Stannis is one of the most irresponsible and self-centered people in the story if he wrote that letter to draw the defense away from the wall.  It is a theory you worked hard on.  I still think it is Ramsay who wrote the letter. 

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@three-eyed monkey and @redriver, it’s much simpler than that. The letter is signed, “Ramsay Bolton, trueborn Lord of Wintefell”, and I have seen nothing to make me doubt that he did write it. There are mysteries in it, sure, but the letter’s authorship is not one of them. 

(Not to be a naysayer... but just stating my opinion on the matter and follow the discussion. Counting the days (or months or whatever) until I get my free booze. :P )

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2 hours ago, redriver said:

A very well put together piece.Very convincing.

But as you know I can't set aside all the Mance associations in the letter.And I also think Mance wants Jon in Winterfell for more esoteric reasons.

I could see a Stannis-Mance-Theon collaboration after Winterfell is taken!

Thank you.

Yes, Mance is interesting and I suspect he will be re-united with Stannis in Winterfell. You know I agree that Mance wants Jon in Winterfell for his own reasons, but the OP was long enough without going into all that. I'm not convinced he had anything to do with the letter though. I could certainly refute some of the perceived Mance associations like "black crows" and more, but even then I couldn't be sure he wasn't involved. It is possible.

1 hour ago, Moiraine Sedai said:

Stannis is one of the most irresponsible and self-centered people in the story if he wrote that letter to draw the defense away from the wall.  It is a theory you worked hard on.  I still think it is Ramsay who wrote the letter. 

Stannis is quite self-centered actually. But in his eyes the best way he can defend the realm is by uniting it under his kingship, and he needs Jon if he is to win the north, which is a vital step towards winning the throne.

I remember a thread where readers were asked to explain how and why Ramsay wrote the letter. 20 pages of discussion later we had nothing but assumptions and not a shred of supporting text. I am certain of very little in these books but I am certain that Ramsay did not write the letter.

29 minutes ago, kissdbyfire said:

@three-eyed monkey and @redriver, it’s much simpler than that. The letter is signed, “Ramsay Bolton, trueborn Lord of Wintefell”, and I have seen nothing to make me doubt that he did write it. There are mysteries in it, sure, but the letter’s authorship is not one of them. 

(Not to be a naysayer... but just stating my opinion on the matter and follow the discussion. Counting the days (or months or whatever) until I get my free booze. :P )

And I am also certain you will be buying, my lady. :cheers:

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1 hour ago, three-eyed monkey said:

I remember a thread where readers were asked to explain how and why Ramsay wrote the letter. 20 pages of discussion later we had nothing but assumptions and not a shred of supporting text. I am certain of very little in these books but I am certain that Ramsay did not write the letter

You are certain? Reeeaaallyyy? I think you are going to be very shocked.

7 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

Theon believes that Ramsay will be coming too, for his bride and his Reek, while Roose sits in Winterfell. While this is not confirmed, as we lost our pov in Winterfell once Theon leapt from the walls, the numbers do suggest the Freys will have some Bolton support. Stannis is reported to have 5,000. It is odd that Roose would send 1,400 Freys and 300 Manderlys of uncertain loyalty to deal with an army of that size, even if they are unhorsed and starving, when he has 4000 troops of his own in Winterfell as well as Ryswell, Dustin and Umber troops that he considers loyal. Given that Ramsay likes to hunt girls through the woods and would be seething at the thought of Reek escaping him, it is entirely plausible that he would go too, in command of a large Bolton force. 

 

Roose’s intention is not just to rid himself of Stannis, but also the Manderlys, and probably reduce the Frey strength in the process. He is no stranger to such tactics, as we saw at Duskendale.

 

It should also be noted that if Theon is right, and Ramsay goes too, then the likelihood of Ramsay being in a position to receive false information about the battle, as some theories suggest, or send a raven to the Wall is greatly reduced.

On the other topic there was a discussion about this.

While I do think that ramsay will join the battle someone raised an important idea. If the freys kill all of mors men then how can ramsay know if farya and reek went to the Wall or to stannis? 

Don t Forget that due to the bad weather it is highly unlikely that ramsay (or anyone else) can chase someone. So if ramsay loses a day or so looking for farya maybe he doesn t have time to join the battle?

On the other hand if the freys capture some of mors men then the good people of winterfell can interrogate them and ramsay will certainly be there for the battle.

I think it is one of those situation that whatever grrm wants to happen makes sense.

7 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

Once Stannis takes the castle he must next win the North to his cause or risk being considered another foreign invader sitting in Winterfell, no different than the Greyjoys. But Arnolf Karstark, his distant second choice to Jon, just crossed himself off the very short list of candidates. Furthermore, the Karstarks’ treachery was exposed by Jon of all people, enhancing his reputation as loyal in Stannis’ eyes.

This is an important problem that most people like to ignore or fantasize some crazy solution.

I would also like to add that with wyman out of action it is unlikely that stannis knows about rickon or what davos is doing. Besides the fact that there are no garantees that rickon is alive or when he might arrive...

And chosing rickon with a regent will probably raise a lot of problems because not all northern lords will agree with who the regent is and might see it as someone using the situation to gain control of the north.

One topic that you are forgeting and also damns stannis is the he has to reward his Southern followers. He wanted to givem them castles on the Wall so after conquering winterfell and with so many lords dead and empty castles he will want to give places like the dreadfort to his loyal men. THAT won t be well accepted by the northern lords.

7 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

I want my bride back. And I want my Reek- This is almost a direct quote of what Theon said to Stannis, change of person aside, “He wants his bride back. He wants his Reek." Theon's laugh was half a titter, half a whimper, again making Stannis the most likely potential author to use those precise words.

Here your arguments comply fail. Jon doesn t know ramsay nor his obecession about reek. If farya and her group was already at the Wall then with their knowledge the logical conclusion is that theon was killed by either stannis or ramsay. Why create this completly unecessary mistery? Why ask for a man that should be dead? It just doesn t make sense...

7 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

Huge Spiky Hand-

There is a really good explanation. The huge spiky hand isn t mentioned because already observed it in the first letter. So him not mentioning it is because the letter is written as he expected a letter from ramsay.

7 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore- A boast from Ramsay, perhaps. Or is it a clever hint from Stannis to Melisandre that the letter is a lie, as it clearly contradicts what she has seen in her flames. “Melisandre swears that she has seen me in her flames, facing the dark with Lightbringer raised on high. Lightbringer!"

Wildling Princess- Stannis and his men consider Val a wildling princess and therefore Stannis is the most likely potential author to have used this term. "Do I have your word that you will keep our princess closely?" the king had said, and Jon had promised that he would. Val is no princess, though. I told him that half a hundred times.

Mel's vision could be about the battle in CV...

And any prisoner ramsay gets will refer to val as wildling princess.

7 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

For this theory to work, TWoW Theon I, Asha I (the Battle of Ice), and Theon II (Winterfell) must take place before ADwD Jon XIII.

Here is another problem. We know theon I. We know that we need another pov for his trial and stannis conversation with the clansmen at the end of theon I. Then we need at least 1 chapter for the battle. Next we would need 1 chap for the aftermath of the battle. And only then could we have them arriving to winterfell. We are talking about 5 chapters… I think it is too much.

Another big problems with this theory:

-Why sign the letter as ramsay Bolton instead of roose Bolton? If stannis wanted to impersonate someone it should be roose that is who has the autorithy to declare war on the NW... It doesn t make sense to create this mistery...

-The PL makes stannis familly run to essos. Why would he risk the security of his familly? Even if you want to argue that mel wouldn t believe stannis is dead for some very weird reason if jon leaves CB his familly would be in a lot of danger… It doesn t really make sense.

-without tormund's wildlings (and nobody in winterfell knows about them) why would jon go to wintefell? It is a suicide… I know you want to say jon said he would go alone to winterfell if needed in his speech but that was just to rouse the wildlings. There is no logical reason for him to do it.

-What is stannis doing during the month he is waiting for jon and the northern lords want to know his plans for the north? It would look very suspicious the timing of all these events...

- In no moment in jon's pov we see him thinking that going to winterfell means he is leaving the NW. He thinks he might be breaking his vows because he will be interfering with the politics of the seven kingdoms. But he never thinks that after dealing with ramsey he won t return to the NW... Why do you think that jon going to winterfell after receiving a threat from ramsey means he will abandon the NW? In fact he has even less reason for leving the NW. The new warden of the north will surelly be more simpathetic than the Boltons so he knows he will get more help defending the Wall.

ps don t Forget that oathbreaker is diferent from deserter. Any NW that sleeps with a woman is a oathbreaker and lots of them do it anyway... 

pps I would also like to add that val and the babe would probably be long gone if jon didn t have means to fight ramsay. Honestly, that letter wouldn t bring anyone to winterfelll.

Edited by divica

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3 hours ago, divica said:

Honestly, that letter wouldn t bring anyone to winterfelll.

It had succeeded in Jon deciding to ride for Winterfell with wildlings until the stabbing.

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10 hours ago, divica said:

You are certain? Reeeaaallyyy? I think you are going to be very shocked.

One of us will be shocked.

10 hours ago, divica said:

On the other topic there was a discussion about this.

While I do think that ramsay will join the battle someone raised an important idea. If the freys kill all of mors men then how can ramsay know if farya and reek went to the Wall or to stannis? 

Don t Forget that due to the bad weather it is highly unlikely that ramsay (or anyone else) can chase someone. So if ramsay loses a day or so looking for farya maybe he doesn t have time to join the battle?

On the other hand if the freys capture some of mors men then the good people of winterfell can interrogate them and ramsay will certainly be there for the battle.

I think it is one of those situation that whatever grrm wants to happen makes sense.

It is known that Mors Umber has declared for Stannis. It is known where Stannis is, thanks to Tybald's map. Reek and Jeyne were frail and injured from their jump from the wall. Stannis camp is the logical place to go to retrieve them as it is three days journey as opposed to three weeks to Castle Black.

GRRM doesn't just make whatever he wants to happen make sense. The characters, even non pov like Stannis, have arcs that progress. The problem with Jon and Winterfell and Jon's vows are all part of Stannis' arc. Jon's inner conflict between his vows and Stannis' offer of Winterfell is a large part of his arc. The pink letter is related to the Stannis-Jon storyline and has very little to do with Ramsay, other than he is the one being impersonated.

10 hours ago, divica said:

This is an important problem that most people like to ignore or fantasize some crazy solution.

I would also like to add that with wyman out of action it is unlikely that stannis knows about rickon or what davos is doing. Besides the fact that there are no garantees that rickon is alive or when he might arrive...

And chosing rickon with a regent will probably raise a lot of problems because not all northern lords will agree with who the regent is and might see it as someone using the situation to gain control of the north.

One topic that you are forgeting and also damns stannis is the he has to reward his Southern followers. He wanted to givem them castles on the Wall so after conquering winterfell and with so many lords dead and empty castles he will want to give places like the dreadfort to his loyal men. THAT won t be well accepted by the northern lords.

I don't fully follow you. Stannis will reward his southron knights with southron castles if ever he wins the throne. I doubt they are in it for a slice of the north.

Stannis thinks Davos dead when last we saw him. But regardless of the Rickon situation, at the time the letter was sent Jon was alive and it is Jon that Stannis wanted and in fact needed. Rickon may become important if Jon is "dead", but at the time the letter was written he was secondary to Jon.

10 hours ago, divica said:

Here your arguments comply fail. Jon doesn t know ramsay nor his obecession about reek. If farya and her group was already at the Wall then with their knowledge the logical conclusion is that theon was killed by either stannis or ramsay. Why create this completly unecessary mistery? Why ask for a man that should be dead? It just doesn t make sense... 

No, what does not make sense is Ramsay asking Jon for his bride back when Jon is one of a handful of people alive who would know that Arya is in fact Jeyne. Roose would not be so careless as Ramsay's claim to Winterfell is bolstered by his marriage to Arya Stark. They would hunt her all the way to the Wall before they would send out a letter advertising the fact that she was no longer in her possession.

The reason Stannis requested Reek and his Bride back is because he is trying to impersonate Ramsay and the best lies have truth in them. Theon told Stannis that Ramsay will want Reek and his bride back, and Stannis quoted him almost verbatim to make it look authentic. It is also advantageous from Stannis point of view to use the lines to inform Jon that his sister is no longer a hostage of the Boltons.

If you really think about it, this quote is an absolute clincher when it comes to identifying the letter's author. We know for a fact that Theon said this to Stannis before the letter was written and we also know that what Theon said to Stannis was quoted in the letter, necessary change of person aside. So was Stannis quoting Theon or do you really think that Ramsay was quoting Theon by random chance? The simplest solution is that it was Stannis quoting Theon.

10 hours ago, divica said:

There is a really good explanation. The huge spiky hand isn t mentioned because already observed it in the first letter. So him not mentioning it is because the letter is written as he expected a letter from ramsay.

This explanation falls down on a number of levels. To begin with, we have no reason to believe that Jon didn't mention it because he already observed it in a previous letter and expected it. Why would Jon not confirm it if he did recognize it? We could argue that back and forth all day and neither of us would win.

But you're asking the wrong question. If the letter was from Ramsay then why did GRRM not confirm it with a simple line. "Jon recognized the huge spiky hand," or something like that. It is GRRM, not Jon, who decides what goes on the page. Why leave it open if you're only creating a false mystery? Good writers don't do that, especially when they have already set-up the huge spiky hand twice, through Asha and Jon. When a writer drops the same thing twice they want you to pay attention. Ramsay's hand was set-up twice so that it would be conspicuous in it's absence come the pink letter, in what is a pretty standard mystery clue.

10 hours ago, divica said:

Mel's vision could be about the battle in CV...

Maybe, but again that's not the point.

Mel swears to Stannis she has seen him standing against the darkness with Lightbringer held high. She believes this is a vision of Stannis fighting the Others and Stannis knows that is what she thinks. The letter says Stannis is dead, Ramsay has the magic sword, tell the Red Witch. This would contradict Mel's belief and again Stannis knows this. It seems an innocuous line, simply a boast from Ramsay, but in fact it's a clever little heads-up for Mel that the letter is a lie.

10 hours ago, divica said:

And any prisoner ramsay gets will refer to val as wildling princess.

What prisoners will Ramsay take from Stannis army? Stannis is going to win the battle of ice.

Stannis is the one who gave Val that name. Jon has told him half-a-hundred times that she is no princess but he still does it. The truth is Stannis knows she is not really a princess but he needs her to be one because he wants to marry her off like a princess to seal a peace in southron fashion.

It is possible that Ramsay or any other potential author might call her wildling princess, but again in the context of the story we are being told, wildling princess is a term associated with Stannis.

10 hours ago, divica said:

Here is another problem. We know theon I. We know that we need another pov for his trial and stannis conversation with the clansmen at the end of theon I. Then we need at least 1 chapter for the battle. Next we would need 1 chap for the aftermath of the battle. And only then could we have them arriving to winterfell. We are talking about 5 chapters… I think it is too much.

It'll be three chapters, wait and see. Theon I, Asha I, Theon II.

10 hours ago, divica said:

Another big problems with this theory:

-Why sign the letter as ramsay Bolton instead of roose Bolton? If stannis wanted to impersonate someone it should be roose that is who has the autorithy to declare war on the NW... It doesn t make sense to create this mistery...

No, if the Boltons wrote the letter it would have been Roose. Stannis sent it from Ramsay as he is the bastard signing his letters, Trueborn Lord of Winterfell and the point is to provoke Jon.

10 hours ago, divica said:

-The PL makes stannis familly run to essos. Why would he risk the security of his familly? Even if you want to argue that mel wouldn t believe stannis is dead for some very weird reason if jon leaves CB his familly would be in a lot of danger… It doesn t really make sense.

His family are in grave danger anyway. That's the way it will be until the war is won and long after that too I'd imagine. Stannis will be hoping Mel picks up on the heads up to avoid displacement. But even if they did flee to Essos, the situation would not be irretrievable for Stannis. On the other hand, if Stannis cannot get Jon to his side then his war is over and the situation does become irretrievable. Weigh it up and it's no contest.

10 hours ago, divica said:

without tormund's wildlings (and nobody in winterfell knows about them) why would jon go to wintefell? It is a suicide… I know you want to say jon said he would go alone to winterfell if needed in his speech but that was just to rouse the wildlings. There is no logical reason for him to do it.

I'm sure Stannis has heard the tale about Jon's uncle Brandon to the Red Keep. Probably hopes Jon has a bit of the wild wolf in him. Jon did say he would go alone if needs be, and while he was certainly rousing the wildlings, I don't believe he was lying.

10 hours ago, divica said:

What is stannis doing during the month he is waiting for jon and the northern lords want to know his plans for the north? It would look very suspicious the timing of all these events...

That depends on the situation in Winterfell and who is left standing. One thing is for sure, only the Manderlys will have significant strength left in the field given that they held the majority of their strenght including a large number of heavy horse in reserve. Maybe Stannis will have control of the castle or maybe he'll be locked in a stalemate with the surviving northern lords inside the castle or maybe he'll be under siege from forces outside the castle? It's hard to tell. He needs to win the north to his cause if he wants to go further, and at the time he sent the letter, Jon was still the best way to do that.

10 hours ago, divica said:

- In no moment in jon's pov we see him thinking that going to winterfell means he is leaving the NW. He thinks he might be breaking his vows because he will be interfering with the politics of the seven kingdoms. But he never thinks that after dealing with ramsey he won t return to the NW... Why do you think that jon going to winterfell after receiving a threat from ramsey means he will abandon the NW? In fact he has even less reason for leving the NW. The new warden of the north will surelly be more simpathetic than the Boltons so he knows he will get more help defending the Wall.

ps don t Forget that oathbreaker is diferent from deserter. Any NW that sleeps with a woman is a oathbreaker and lots of them do it anyway... 

“This creature who makes cloaks from the skins of women has sworn to cut my heart out, and I mean to make him answer for those words … but I will not ask my brothers to forswear their vows.”

He would not ask his brothers to come with them because leaving Castle Black to take part in the game of thrones is forswearing your vows. It is oathbreaking. He's deserting his post to go against the Lord of Winterfell. It's a crime punishable by death.

10 hours ago, divica said:

pps I would also like to add that val and the babe would probably be long gone if jon didn t have means to fight ramsay. Honestly, that letter wouldn t bring anyone to winterfelll.

Val would be gone where? I don't get what you mean here.

The letter would have brought someone to Winterfell had Bowen not intervened. Jon said he would go alone if he had to, and I believe him. We have seen what type of person Jon is and so has Stannis. He was never going to hide in Castle Black with his white dog. Everything we have ever read about Jon suggests he would take action with whatever means were available. And he did.

Edited by three-eyed monkey
correction

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2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

I don't fully follow you. Stannis will reward his southron knights with southron castles if ever he wins the throne. I doubt they are in it for a slice of the north.

Stannis wants to reward his southerns as soon as possible. He wanted to give them castles on the Wall. The Wall! What do you think he will do with castles from his enemies in the north? 

2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

No, what does not make sense is Ramsay asking Jon for his bride back when Jon is one of a handful of people alive who would know that Arya is in fact Jeyne. Roose would not be so careless as Ramsay's claim to Winterfell is bolstered by his marriage to Arya Stark. They would hunt her all the way to the Wall before they would send out a letter advertising the fact that she was no longer in her possession.

Advertising to whom? Suposedly farya is already at the Wall…  And if she wasn t the letter doesn t compromisse farya's identity… 

And are you trying to say stannis wouldn t sign the letter as roose Bolton because he would think that roose wouldn t say they lost farya in a letter? 

And what do you think the boltons have been acusing mance of doing?

 

Edited by divica

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2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

The reason Stannis requested Reek and his Bride back is because he is trying to impersonate Ramsay and the best lies have truth in them. Theon told Stannis that Ramsay will want Reek and his bride back, and Stannis quoted him almost verbatim to make it look authentic. It is also advantageous from Stannis point of view to use the lines to inform Jon that his sister is no longer a hostage of the Boltons.

If you really think about it, this quote is an absolute clincher when it comes to identifying the letter's author. We know for a fact that Theon said this to Stannis before the letter was written and we also know that what Theon said to Stannis was quoted in the letter, necessary change of person aside. So was Stannis quoting Theon or do you really think that Ramsay was quoting Theon by random chance? The simplest solution is that it was Stannis quoting Theon.

No. The line makes absolute no sense. If jon is with farya then he will think that he was killed by stannis. If he isn t with farya then he won t even know who reek is...

And jon has no idea how mance talks nor his interest in reek. Stannis doesn t want to convince YOU that he is ramsay. You think Stannis is trying to convince jon… 

Stannis asking for a person that he knows isn t with jon and that he either doesn t know who it is or thinks is already dead acomplishes the oposite of what stannis wants. Him adding this line only makes jon question the veracity of the letter because it doesn t fit with jon's information. 

And if someone is quoting somebody it is theon. Theon is saying what he thinks ramsay will say so it actually makes sense that ramsay says those words… 

2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

But you're asking the wrong question. If the letter was from Ramsay then why did GRRM not confirm it with a simple line. "Jon recognized the huge spiky hand," or something like that. It is GRRM, not Jon, who decides what goes on the page. Why leave it open if you're only creating a false mystery? Good writers don't do that, especially when they have already set-up the huge spiky hand twice, through Asha and Jon. When a writer drops the same thing twice they want you to pay attention. Ramsay's hand was set-up twice so that it would be conspicuous in it's absence come the pink letter, in what is a pretty standard mystery clue.

Grrm confirmed it by having the letter signed as ramsay Bolton.

2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

No, if the Boltons wrote the letter it would have been Roose. Stannis sent it from Ramsay as he is the bastard signing his letters, Trueborn Lord of Winterfell and the point is to provoke Jon.

Again, signing with the name ramsey just raises questions about the veracity of the letter. Why would ramsay declare war on the NW and act as if he is in charge instead of roose? Acording to your theory stannis doesn t want jon making these questions...

2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

His family are in grave danger anyway. That's the way it will be until the war is won and long after that too I'd imagine. Stannis will be hoping Mel picks up on the heads up to avoid displacement. But even if they did flee to Essos, the situation would not be irretrievable for Stannis. On the other hand, if Stannis cannot get Jon to his side then his war is over and the situation does become irretrievable. Weigh it up and it's no contest.

No they aren t. As long as the NW believe stannis is strong his familly is pretty safe in the NW. 

2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

I'm sure Stannis has heard the tale about Jon's uncle Brandon to the Red Keep. Probably hopes Jon has a bit of the wild wolf in him. Jon did say he would go alone if needs be, and while he was certainly rousing the wildlings, I don't believe he was lying.

ok. What would jon do riding alone to winterfel? And I am pretty sure jon knows how brandon's tale ended. I doubt he would want to repeat his fate… 

Seriously, what kind of logic makes stannis think that jon would ride to winterfell if he received that letter if he only had less than 400 NW brothers and a few hundred wildlings?

2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

That depends on the situation in Winterfell and who is left standing. One thing is for sure, only the Manderlys will have significant strength left in the field given that they held 10,000 heavy horse in reserve. Maybe Stannis will have control of the castle or maybe he'll be locked in a stalemate with the surviving northern lords inside the castle or maybe he'll be under siege from forces outside the castle? It's hard to tell. He needs to win the north to his cause if he wants to go further, and at the time he sent the letter, Jon was still the best way to do that.

Are you saying that after wining winterfell stannis would be in some conflict with the northern lords? And for some reason these northern lords would let jon pass and jon would kneel to stannis and they would all join forces? Because that sounds super weird to me...

2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

“This creature who makes cloaks from the skins of women has sworn to cut my heart out, and I mean to make him answer for those words … but I will not ask my brothers to forswear their vows.”

He would not ask his brothers to come with them because leaving Castle Black to take part in the game of thrones is forswearing your vows. It is oathbreaking. He's deserting his post to go against the Lord of Winterfell. It's a crime punishable by death.

These are your words. Jon doesn t think he is deserting or forswearing his vows. He is pretty clear that he is going to winterfell and remains a brother of the NW.

Besides, as LC he can go wherever he pleases as long as it is in the interests of the NW. And dealing with ramsey after receving that letter is certainly of interest for the NW.

And remember that for exemple benjen used to ride to winterfell when the LC let him. As LC why can t do the same?

Seriously, here you are making a huge jump without any support.

2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

Val would be gone where? I don't get what you mean here.

If jon didn t have the means to fight ramsay (as whoever wrote the PL thinks because they don t know about tormund) she would have escaped somewhere. She certainly wouldn t ride to winterfell or remain there so that she could become an hostage...

2 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

The letter would have brought someone to Winterfell had Bowen not intervened. Jon said he would go alone if he had to, and I believe him. We have seen what type of person Jon is and so has Stannis. He was never going to hide in Castle Black with his white dog. Everything we have ever read about Jon suggests he would take action with whatever means were available. And he did.

The problem is that he had no means to attack winterfell. And you can t provide a logical reason for him to ride alone to winterfell because there isn t one. I am sorry but him giving a speech to rouse the wildlings isn t proof that he would ride alone to his death.

The only action jon could take is sending the possible hostages to essos and prepare CB as well as he can for an assault. Like digging ditches, building a palisade, a snow/ice Wall on the south side, having the wildlings attacking ramsays forces at night while they are marching...

All these make sense. Him riding to winterfell alone no...

As I said above you have at least 2 very weak point in your theory.

There is no logical reason for stannis to think jon would ride to winterfell (given that he doesn t know about tormund).

And there is no reason for you to assume that by going to winterfell to deal with mance jon is deserting the NW. We saw in jon's last chapter that he wants to ride to winterfell and he never tought he was leaving the NW. Just that he was interfering in the affairs of the 7 kingdoms.

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@three-eyed monkey

Thank you for the write up. I agree with you that George set up Ramsay's handwriting to be conscpiously not mentioned by the time the PL arrived. I would also add that he uses Tormund to remind the reader that the letter isn't truth. I also agree that the line about his bride and his Reek comes from Theon. The use of words like "whore" are also tied more to Theon and Stannis than to Ramsay (he may be a serial killer of women, but he doesn't call them whores). The PL's language compares more to what other characters suppose to be Ramsay's language, than it actually being his language. Even having Mance and all his spearwives is a boast that I just cannot believe to be true, given the circumstances of the escape and the deaths of the two spearwives at the gates during Theon's escape. Dead women cannot talk. And in all the time it took for Theon to heat the water, carry it upstairs, convince Jeyne, switch clothes with squirrel and then the escape, Mance and the other spearwives were not going to wait around in the hall to make a merry feast. For whom? After breakfast two armies prepared to leave WF. Even Squirrel has ample time to climb down unseen and go hide in the hearttree.

To Theon, Ramsay is the super boogeyman who will foil any plans, a Sauron who knows what he thinks before Theon thinks it, a Sauron who automatically knows with his roving eye where he'll be. And because of Theon's POV, the reader has come to see Ramsay in the same fatalistic way.

And I agree that Stannis has the best motivation to send it.

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To my knowledge only houses that could call at arms 10k heavy horse are Lannister and Tyrell. So I do not think that there would have been available so many heavy cavalrymen in the North. In fact I assume that highest number of heavy horse house Manderly would have access is 2000 and that would include all horse of their "allies".

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19 minutes ago, Loose Bolt said:

To my knowledge only houses that could call at arms 10k heavy horse are Lannister and Tyrell. So I do not think that there would have been available so many heavy cavalrymen in the North. In fact I assume that highest number of heavy horse house Manderly would have access is 2000 and that would include all horse of their "allies".

Yes, my mistake. Not sure where I got the 10k from. Must have picked it up in some discussion along the way but it's not in the book. Wyman only brought a small contingent to Winterfell and the majority of his strength is elsewhere. He says he still commands more heavy horse than any lord north of the Neck. I'm not sure how many but you are right, 2k is a more realistic estimate.

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49 minutes ago, three-eyed monkey said:

Yes, my mistake. Not sure where I got the 10k from. Must have picked it up in some discussion along the way but it's not in the book. Wyman only brought a small contingent to Winterfell and the majority of his strength is elsewhere. He says he still commands more heavy horse than any lord north of the Neck. I'm not sure how many but you are right, 2k is a more realistic estimate.

Suspect here is that Manderly brought more food than anybody else, far more than his 300 at WF needed, and that apparently his food left along with those 300. Seems to me those 1700 more are in the neighbourhood. Regardless of Stannis, Manderly would want those Freys and their soldiers to die in the North. And that tale on how Hosteen Frey tried to slice open Wyman's throat will make sure that Manderly's forces will be after the Frey army.

And by making Roose think he only has 300 with him, Roose thought he'd send those Manderly heavy horse to die against the Freys. Another mistake.

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4 hours ago, divica said:

Stannis wants to reward his southerns as soon as possible. He wanted to give them castles on the Wall. The Wall! What do you think he will do with castles from his enemies in the north? 

I don't see what rewarding his knights has to do with the letter? My point is he desperately wants to award Winterfell to Jon Stark in an attempt to stabilize the North and bind it to his cause.

4 hours ago, divica said:

Advertising to whom? Suposedly farya is already at the Wall…  And if she wasn t the letter doesn t compromisse farya's identity… 

Well if we take the letter at face value, as you do, then for the Bolton's to demand  that Jon returns fArya then they must expect him to come into contact with her. They know she is a fake, and they know Jon would know it too. It makes no sense that they would ask Jon to return her, given her fake identity is vital to their tenuous hold on Winterfell and the North.

4 hours ago, divica said:

And are you trying to say stannis wouldn t sign the letter as roose Bolton because he would think that roose wouldn t say they lost farya in a letter? 

I'm saying he signed it Ramsay Bolton, Trueborn Lord of Winterfell, because he is trying to provoke Jon.

4 hours ago, divica said:

And what do you think the boltons have been acusing mance of doing?

They haven't accused him of anything yet because they didn't write the letter.

4 hours ago, divica said:

No. The line makes absolute no sense. If jon is with farya then he will think that he was killed by stannis. If he isn t with farya then he won t even know who reek is...

Jon doesn't know who Reek is regardless of who wrote the letter. Stannis included the line because he is quoting Theon, who told him what Ramsay would want. This quote is a slam dunk really.

4 hours ago, divica said:

And if someone is quoting somebody it is theon. Theon is saying what he thinks ramsay will say so it actually makes sense that ramsay says those words… 

No, Theon said it to Stannis. It's not something Ramsay ever said. Theon is not quoting Ramsay. You are saying that Theon will predict, not quote, but predict what Ramsay was going to say in a letter Theon didn't even know Ramsay was going to write. How in hell is that more plausible than Stannis quoting what was said to him?

4 hours ago, divica said:

Grrm confirmed it by having the letter signed as ramsay Bolton.

If you consider the signature as confirmation then why bother even entering this discussion with any other points. The fact is the signature is not confirmation and you know it. Why did GRRM set up huge spiky hand then?

4 hours ago, divica said:

Again, signing with the name ramsey just raises questions about the veracity of the letter. Why would ramsay declare war on the NW and act as if he is in charge instead of roose? Acording to your theory stannis doesn t want jon making these questions...

Ha. You're the one claiming that is what Ramsay actually did, not me.

Look at the flaw in your logic here. You believe the letter is from Ramsay, no question. You say that signing the letter Ramsay just raises questions about the veracity of the letter. Yet the letter is signed Ramsay.

4 hours ago, divica said:

No they aren t. As long as the NW believe stannis is strong his familly is pretty safe in the NW.

No one is safe, my friend. Not when you are playing the game of thrones. You win or you die and Stannis is nowhere near winning.

4 hours ago, divica said:

ok. What would jon do riding alone to winterfel? And I am pretty sure jon knows how brandon's tale ended. I doubt he would want to repeat his fate… 

Seriously, what kind of logic makes stannis think that jon would ride to winterfell if he received that letter if he only had less than 400 NW brothers and a few hundred wildlings?

Do you really think Jon would comply with the letter? Jon said he would go alone if needs be, and as I said, based on all I have read of Jon's character, I believe him.

4 hours ago, divica said:

Are you saying that after wining winterfell stannis would be in some conflict with the northern lords? And for some reason these northern lords would let jon pass and jon would kneel to stannis and they would all join forces? Because that sounds super weird to me...

Yes, or course Stannis will be in conflict with some northern lords. They have no love for him, which again is why he needs Jon. If Jon did arrive the pro-stark northern lords would have crowned Jon themselves but Stannis did not know that.

4 hours ago, divica said:

These are your words. Jon doesn t think he is deserting or forswearing his vows. He is pretty clear that he is going to winterfell and remains a brother of the NW.

Where is he clear about this? From what I quoted above it seems clear that he is forswearing his vows and he won't ask his brothers to do the same.

4 hours ago, divica said:

Besides, as LC he can go wherever he pleases as long as it is in the interests of the NW. And dealing with ramsey after receving that letter is certainly of interest for the NW.

And remember that for exemple benjen used to ride to winterfell when the LC let him. As LC why can t do the same?

Seriously, here you are making a huge jump without any support.

Benjen wasn't coming to Winterfell to kill the Lord of Winterfell.

4 hours ago, divica said:

If jon didn t have the means to fight ramsay (as whoever wrote the PL thinks because they don t know about tormund) she would have escaped somewhere. She certainly wouldn t ride to winterfell or remain there so that she could become an hostage...

Stannis believes Val is a prisoner at Castle Black so I doubt he was concerned about her fleeing.

4 hours ago, divica said:

The problem is that he had no means to attack winterfell. And you can t provide a logical reason for him to ride alone to winterfell because there isn t one. I am sorry but him giving a speech to rouse the wildlings isn t proof that he would ride alone to his death.

He still has no means to take Winterfell, even with Tormund's army, which is estimated at around 3000 I believe. Stannis is thought to have 5000 men and Mance knows that is not nearly enough to take a castle of that strength. So by your logic Jon still should not have went but the fact is he was still going to go.

5 hours ago, divica said:

The only action jon could take is sending the possible hostages to essos and prepare CB as well as he can for an assault. Like digging ditches, building a palisade, a snow/ice Wall on the south side, having the wildlings attacking ramsays forces at night while they are marching...

All these make sense. Him riding to winterfell alone no...

Jon's not going to prepare Castle Black for an assault from the south. And Ramsay's not coming for Jon because if he was he would not have warned him first with a pointless letter.

5 hours ago, divica said:

As I said above you have at least 2 very weak point in your theory.

There is no logical reason for stannis to think jon would ride to winterfell (given that he doesn t know about tormund).

And there is no reason for you to assume that by going to winterfell to deal with mance jon is deserting the NW. We saw in jon's last chapter that he wants to ride to winterfell and he never tought he was leaving the NW. Just that he was interfering in the affairs of the 7 kingdoms.

Ramsay is not going to write to Jon, of all people, to ask for his bride back when Ramsay knows she is not Arya and her fake identity is crucial to his hold on Winterfell.

Ramsay will be at the battle of ice, not writing letters back in Winterfell.

Without winning the battle and taking prisoners, Ramsay does not know or care about the wildling princess.

Theon does not have the power to predict what Ramsay will say word-for-word.

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42 minutes ago, sweetsunray said:

Suspect here is that Manderly brought more food than anybody else, far more than his 300 at WF needed, and that apparently his food left along with those 300. Seems to me those 1700 more are in the neighbourhood. Regardless of Stannis, Manderly would want those Freys and their soldiers to die in the North. And that tale on how Hosteen Frey tried to slice open Wyman's throat will make sure that Manderly's forces will be after the Frey army.

And by making Roose think he only has 300 with him, Roose thought he'd send those Manderly heavy horse to die against the Freys. Another mistake.

Agreed. I have another piece here that I removed from the OP regarding the Manderlys and Freys.

Theon told Stannis that the Freys and Manderlys were at each others’ throats in Winterfell, so the Manderlys turning cloaks during the battle remains a strong possibility. However, there is a chance the White Harbour forces never even make it to the battle. The Freys suspect Lord Wyman is behind the disappearance of Rhaegar, Jared, and Symond Frey, as well as the murder of Little Walder. Hosteen took a slice out of Lord Wyman in the Great Hall at Winterfell and openly declared he would return to finish the job once he has dealt with Stannis.

Hosteen Frey's sword was red almost to the hilt. Blood spatters speckled his cheeks like freckles. He lowered his blade and said, "As my lord commands. But after I deliver you the head of Stannis Baratheon, I mean to finish hacking off Lord Lard's."

Four White Harbor knights had formed a ring around Lord Wyman, as Maester Medrick labored over him to staunch his bleeding. "First you must needs come through us, ser," said the eldest of them, a hard-faced greybeard whose bloodstained surcoat showed three silvery mermaids upon a violet field.

"Gladly. One at a time or all at once, it makes no matter."

Theon thinks will not escalate any further in Winterfell, but out there in the woods things might be different.

The Frey men wore the badge of the two towers, those from White Harbor displayed merman and trident. They shouldered through the storm in opposite directions and eyed each other warily as they passed, but no swords were drawn. Not here. It may be different out there in the woods.

And why not? With Aenys Frey dead, thanks to Crowfood’s trap, command now lies with hot-headed Hosteen. The Freys have 400 horse and over 1000 foot. Lord Wyman brought 300 men to Winterfell, a hundred of them knights, some of whom will obviously remain at Winterfell to protect their wounded lord. They are greatly outnumbered and it is a 3 day journey to Stannis camp. Hosteen would be foolish to allow them any opportunity to join their strength to Stannis, given his suspicions about their loyalty. He had similar thoughts about Arnolf Karstark riding to join Stannis before he learned Karstark was in league with Roose.

Ser Hosteen Frey pushed to his feet. "We should ride forth to meet them. Why allow them to combine their strength?"

The White Harbor men would do well to put some distance between themselves and the Freys once they are outside Winterfell, if that’s even possible. Aligning with Stannis might be the best chance they have at survival. The wildcard here is Wyman’s reserve strength, who may be nearby in Robett Glover’s command.

“Even with the losses I have suffered, I still command more heavy horse than any other lord north of the Neck. My walls are strong, and my vaults are full of silver. Oldcastle and Widow's Watch will take their lead from me. My bannermen include a dozen petty lords and a hundred landed knights”.

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4 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

Thank you for the write up. I agree with you that George set up Ramsay's handwriting to be conscpiously not mentioned by the time the PL arrived. I would also add that he uses Tormund to remind the reader that the letter isn't truth.

Thank you. Indeed, Tormund signposted the mystery when he said it might all be a skin o' lies.

4 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

I also agree that the line about his bride and his Reek comes from Theon.

It has to really. As I said, the alternative is simply ludicrous.

4 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

Even having Mance and all his spearwives is a boast that I just cannot believe to be true, given the circumstances of the escape and the deaths of the two spearwives at the gates during Theon's escape. Dead women cannot talk. And in all the time it took for Theon to heat the water, carry it upstairs, convince Jeyne, switch clothes with squirrel and then the escape, Mance and the other spearwives were not going to wait around in the hall to make a merry feast. For whom? After breakfast two armies prepared to leave WF. Even Squirrel has ample time to climb down unseen and go hide in the hearttree.

Again I agree. I don't think Mance planned on leaving the castle just yet and he had plenty of time to get to the crypts or some other hiding place with Rowan, Myrtle, and Willow before the alarm was raised. Squirrel would have been in a more difficult position but not without hope of escaping as planned. We don't know if the Bolton's took any of the women alive. The two we know about were Holly, who was dead, and Frenya, last seen in mortal danger on the drawbridge.

4 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

And because of Theon's POV, the reader has come to see Ramsay in the same fatalistic way.

Absolutely.

5 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

And I agree that Stannis has the best motivation to send it.

Yes he does. The letter fits perfectly with Stannis arc and with what he has been trying to achieve since he landed in the north. The letter fits perfectly with Jon's inner conflict between Stannis' offer of legitimization as Lord of Winterfell and his oath to the Watch, between family and duty, etc. Once we understand what the author of the letter is trying to achieve and why the author is trying to achieve it, then the who becomes clear.

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I never thought much of the pink letter until I read the Theon sample chapter from Winds that was really supposed to be in ADwD instead.

That chapter raises a lot of questions. And that coupled with the language used in the letter, the lack of description for the handwriting which was a big enough deal that we get exposition on it from both Jon and Asha, and Stannis's conversation with Justin Massey before he sends him off makes me wonder if Ramsay really did write the letter. 

The language used is Theon's. Stannis knows where Jeyne is headed because he is sending her to Castle Black, but Ramsay doesn't know where Theon and Jeyne are headed. I'd think that he might conclude that they went to Stannis because he is much closer than Castle Black. Either way, I'd think that Ramsay would have gone after Theon and Jeyne the moment he found out they were missing. It doesn't seem like it happened, which makes me wonder if something more happened inside Winterfell after the Freys and Manderlys marched out.

More than that, as stated, Arya is a fake. Ramsay and Roose know that, but Stannis doesn't. Once Jeyne shows up at the Wall, the jig is up for Bolton. 

I suppose there's some irony in all of this. If Stannis wrote the letter to draw Jon out of Castle Black, then things are not looking very good for Jon after he was stabbed by his men. And Stannis taking Winterfell back from the Boltons while losing Storm's End and his last foothold in the south to Aegon and maybe some of his bannermen while trying to gain the allegiance of the northmen is pretty ironic. 

Whatever the case, I'm pretty sure we're not done with Ramsay by a long shot. There is strong foreshadowing that there's going to be a fight between his hounds and the direwolves.

About Mance, I did notice something in the text that I posted in the I never noticed that thread. GRRM seems to have bookended Rattleshirt as Mance's cage moment and Mance's would-be cage moment with a cloak. 

I don't know if it's significant, or how significant it is, but I think it's an interesting tidbit in the text.

Edited by Alexis-something-Rose

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15 hours ago, divica said:

Here your arguments comply fail. Jon doesn t know ramsay nor his obecession about reek

No Jon doesn't know but Ramsay does. 

15 hours ago, divica said:

If farya and her group was already at the Wall then with their knowledge the logical conclusion is that theon was killed by either stannis or ramsay.

I'm not exactly sure what you are saying here but fArya is not at the wall so... 

The issue with Ramsay writing the letter is that Ramsay wouldn't know fArya would go to the wall - in fact he knows she is fake & has every reason to believe she would not go to the wall, why would she? Stannis believes Arya is real & knows about Mel's vision of her going to the wall. 

@three-eyed monkey very well written. It's probably one of the best I've seen on the PL. I'm sold. 

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3 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

They know she is a fake, and they know Jon would know it too. It makes no sense that they would ask Jon to return her, given her fake identity is vital to their tenuous hold on Winterfell and the North

Absolutely & more than that - as I said to divica Ramsay wouldn't think fArya would go to the wall or to Jon at all. He knows she isn't really Jon's sister so why would she? It's Stannis who believes fArya is going to the wall. 

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