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The future of the brotherhood without banners


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There is an interesting reveal in Fire & Blood. The Northmen who came south to fight in the Dance of Dragons did not return to their homes after the war. They stayed in Riverlands and caused a revival of the faith of the old gods in the region through arranged intermarriages with the locals. This old gods revival in Riverlands made me realize that GRRM did something similar in the main story too and he was making a point that I do not remember much discussed.

Lacking prohibitive defensive borders, Riverlands is like a natural battleground and it is usually the first place to face the devastation of wars. ASOIAF is a wartime story. GRRM repeatedly emphasizes that war brings the worst in people and makes beasts of them. Being through such unbearable tragedies and atrocities has a certain effect that is most visible in Riverlands due to getting ransacked by wars so often: people turn to religion. The old gods revival during the Dance of Dragons was probably neither the first and definitely not the last example of a swift movement of religious cults in Riverlands. It happened during the main story twice and both are mainly centered in Riverlands where the War of the 5 Kings hit worst.

The first one is the spread of the cult of Lord of Light thanks to Beric and Thoros. The other one is the sparrow movement. Both cults took root rapidly in Riverlands because the local people were traumatized enough to embrace these new faiths and find comfort in the idea of making sense of all the misery in their war-torn country.

But there is more to come. We can already see that the Brotherhood without Banners is going downhill since the leadership changed from Beric to Lady Stonheart. People are getting desperate and discontented again. Their new faith is not making sense anymore. They are losing their belief that their cause is just, something they sincerely believed in with Beric in charge. They started breaking the guest right too. In short, the scene is quite ready for a new religious shift in Riverlands.

Enter Sam. I bet a huge money that he will not spend the rest of his days forging useless chains at the Citadel. That part of the story will come to an abrupt end, one way or the other. I think he should and will return north where the true threat is. While returning north, I am proposing that he will travel by land and pass through Riverlands. On the way, he will try to find more recruits by telling the people of the true threat. Jon sent him to be a stand-in for Aemon but Sam will return as a stand-in for Yoren/Dareon. His plea will be ignored and ridiculed most of the time but in Riverlands, he will find willing ears.

There will be many reasons why Sam will recruit the majority of the Brotherhood without Banners. Some of them will sincerely believe in him. After all, they can’t discredit Sam when he says that the dead are coming back to fight the living. They’ve all seen Beric and Thoros. They’ve seen the dead rise. For some of them, even if they don’t believe in Sam’s story, his plea will be a chance to get free from the grasp of Lady Stoneheart. Normally, they could not have escaped or left the brotherhood, not without risking execution for treason. Now, Sam will be providing them a face saving, honorable discharge and they will not miss the chance. Sam will surely play the religion card too. Sam will probably cite Melisandre on the Battle for Dawn to appeal to the believers of the Lord of Light. For all gods and all faiths, there is only one fight that matters, that they must fight together.

Finally, there is some clever foreshadowing for the brotherhood eventually going north to help/join the Night's Watch:



A Storm of Swords - Arya VII

“You must be a lackwit, boy,” said Lem. “We’re outlaws. Lowborn scum, most of us, excepting his lordship. Don’t think it’ll be like Tom’s fool songs neither. You won’t be stealing no kisses from a princess, nor riding in no tourneys in stolen armor. You join us, you’ll end with your neck in a noose, or your head mounted up above some castle gate.”

“It’s no more than they’d do for you,” said Gendry.

“Aye, that’s so,” said Jack-Be-Lucky cheerfully. “The crows await us all. M’lord, the boy seems brave enough, and we do have need of what he brings us. Take him, says Jack.”



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There’s a lot of sense in what you say. The Riverlands really seems like the worst place to live in Westeros. The worst battlefields are always there in Westerosi history, and there’s been a lot of religious fervour in that region. I like the idea of Sam leading a small army of recruits north to the Wall. We’ll see if that happens.

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This adds an interesting twist to an already question. What will Stoneheart think about Jon? If what you say is true she will probably be beyond bitter towards him as he is stealing her army after, as she will probably see it, he stole her children's birthright of Winterfell. So given that what you say is very plausible then it should add a very interesting twist in the Catelyn-Jon relationship and set them on a collision course.

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