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Mithras

A solution to the problem of Bran

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Intro

Since the end of ACoK, Bran only got travelogue chapters as he became increasingly more isolated from the rest of the story. GRRM talked about his difficulties in writing Bran many times. I won’t go into that. The problem is, how will Bran return to being a prominent character again? How will he reconnect with the rest of the story? How will he matter?

I think we can safely say that Bran will leave the cave. Apart from a body snatcher scenario, which everybody should hate, Bran has to leave that cave somehow and start interacting with the rest of the cast. Bran will not be plugged to a tree in that cave forever, which has always been a fringe idea.

Given the limited page space in TWoW vs. so much stuff that needs to happen, GRRM must be very efficient in TWoW. He must kill two birds with one stone, and he must do it over and over again. By this, I mean that he does not have the luxury of writing single, isolated subplots anymore. While solving a subplot, he must also solve another standing problem and tie as many loose ends as he can. The story should start contracting. Isolated characters should start coming together and their timelines should be synchronized. With this approach, I think GRRM can and will use Bran’s return as one of the major objectives that will interact with and drive the larger northern arc. This way GRRM will also be bringing Bran to the forefront again.

Why will Bran leave the cave?

I think the ward that guards the cave will be breached and the Others will storm the cave. This is an old theory which makes sense. I don’t want to blow the OP with too much quotation and textual analysis but Bloodraven said “And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late.” which I always interpreted as he knows that his days are numbered. With all the Bloodraven-Odin connotations and Odin foreseeing his death, I think Bloodraven foresaw his own death and it will be soon; too soon in fact to teach Bran enough about greenseeing and the Others.

GRRM is free to figure out how exactly the ward will wear off. I will provide a theory for that as well. But it will happen somehow and Bloodraven will be slain. Afterwards, Bran will have his “Fly, you fools” moment.

Where to next?

After the Others start storming the cave, there are only two ways ahead: up or down. They might either get out of the caves and try to reach the Wall through the frozen wilderness; or they might dive deeper into the caves and try to find a subterranean way that can bring them to the Wall or maybe even beyond.

I think a journey through the frozen wilderness is not possible. Apart from all the logistical difficulties, the Others shouldn’t let Bran walk off so easily. Therefore, down will be the way to go where the Others cannot follow. I think GRRM laid enough foundation for Gorne’s Way to play a key part in the story (which I won’t delve into because as I said, I don’t want to dive too much into quotation and textual analysis). Escape through Gorne’s Way makes a wonderful horror story as befits Bran’s characterization and the general dark tone of TWoW. GRRM should not be able to resist this. Furthermore, since Gorne’s Way is an uncharted and timeless place, GRRM can make Bran resurface anywhere and any time according to the needs of the story. This should also be very appealing to GRRM because it allows him to avoid problems associated with logistics, travel times and intersecting timelines.

Two birds with one stone

Bran simply coming back without having anything to do with the rest of the story/cast would not be interesting. That would mean Bran will start the ultimate volume of the series as still isolated from the rest of the story. That would make the fans question what kind of an endgame might be in for Bran, if he is going to stay isolated for so long. Keeping Bran isolated also means waste of valuable TWoW page space. Bran’s return offers a huge potential to tie many loose ends in a climactic way and this requires GRRM play Bran’s return into the larger northern arc.

Ides of Marsh

At the night of the assassination, neither Mel nor others saw Jon being stabbed. It was a dark, chaotic night with heavy snowfall. Due to reading Jon’s POV, readers might think that he is always under the spotlight and everyone should be watching him. But the characters in the story are not reading the books. Jon was just a person among the many at that night. Jon tried to make his voice heard and put an end to the madness but no one noticed him. People were pouring out of every opening, screaming and running. A giant was roaring and tearing a person apart, where all the spotlights were pointed at. In this chaos, it is no surprise that no one even noticed Jon, except the assassins who were specifically looking out for him. I think Marsh and the rest will quickly take Jon’s body away and put him into an ice cell before anyone sees.

Marsh is thinking of preserving Jon’s body so that he can show it to Ramsay as the proof of their renounce of Jon when Ramsay shows up at the Wall, as he said he would per the Pink Letter. After Marsh secretly stashes Jon’s body in the ice cells, the heavy snowfall will bury the ice cells just like Jon commented that night before he removed the prisoners (except the two corpses) in the ice cells. Next morning, the accumulated snow covering gates of the ice cells will show no sign of anyone breaking in or out.

All this will be revealed to the readers piece by piece and retroactively in a couple of chapters. I gave this explanation from an omnipotent POV to present the case clearly.

TWoW Melisandre I

The aftermath of the assassination will be told in Mel’s first TWoW chapter. Next morning, Marsh will declare that Jon deserted and became an oathbreaker, which will explain why Jon is missing along with Val and certain wildlings, and why no one saw them since the night before. Marsh will even send letters to other castles and northern lords, declaring Jon’s desertion and asking them to catch and execute him. This is the standard procedure for deserters as we know since the first chapter of Bran in AGoT.

Mel will not be sure whether she should believe Marsh or not. She will tell Selyse to pack her things up and fly to Nightfort because of the unstable situation at Castle Black. Mel will have no part or knowledge of Jon’s whereabouts and his “return” until Jon is back.

I don’t think Mel will have anything to do with Jon’s “return”. I know it is too tempting to think that Mel will resurrect him but I don’t think that will be the case. On the contrary, the fact that Mel will be oblivious to Jon’s mysterious “return” will add to her growing suspicions towards him and also Val.

Ghost I

The readers will see what actually happened to Jon that night through Jon’s first chapter in TWoW, which will actually be a Ghost POV. After the assassination, Jon’s spirit will go into Ghost as foreshadowed extensively. During the night of the Ides of Marsh, Val will free Ghost and figure out that Jon’s body is in the ice cells which are being buried by the falling snow. Val will get help, probably from Borroq and his boar. They will dig up the snow and take Jon’s body away. The falling snow will cover their tracks. This way, neither Marsh nor Mel’s POV will notice a thing.

Val will realize that Jon is still alive, though barely. The cold will have frozen his wounds and prevented fatal blood loss. Just like Bran and Summer in AGoT, Jon will be drawing strength from Ghost and holding onto life longer than what should be normal. Borroq will tell Val that Jon’s soul is stuck in Ghost and unable to turn back at his own, and that Jon does not have much time left. They will decide to take Jon to Morna White Mask at Snowgate, who is a witch unlike Val. Morna will make a ritual sacrifice of Ghost and use that blood sacrifice to heal Jon’s body and put his soul back in. All this will be told through the first and the last POV of Ghost, which will be stylistically similar to Jon’s Ghost dreams in ADwD. Jon will also complete that crypt dream in this state during this chapter but that is the subject of another post. After this Ghost chapter, Jon will return to getting his regular chapters.

Intermezzo

We are making a large jump here, approximately from 10% to 55-60% of TWoW. Lots of stuff will take place in every part of the story during this jump. We will briefly mention only the relevant threads to the subject of this post.

In the subsequent Jon and Mel chapters, Jon will naturally not reveal anything to Mel about what happened at that night, how he got healed, what happened to Ghost, where is Val and the other wildlings in all this etc. This will add to Mel’s suspicions towards Jon and Val, especially after seeing them romantically getting closer. Mel will start suspecting that “something” is off with Jon, that he is under Val’s spell, and that they are hiding something.

Jon’s story from 10% to 55-60% of TWoW will mainly focus on Ramsay and the Battle of the Bastards, which is not the main topic of this thread. GRRM will build up the conflict between Jon and Ramsay, which will be concluded around mid-TWoW. Jon will be saved by the last minute cavalry charge of Stannis (whom everyone will be considering dead up until this point) with the Manderly knights. This will be the end of the Boltons except a small garrison at Dreadfort. Winterfell will quickly liberated afterwards, which will bring us to the council about what to do next.

If you really want to know about the Battle on Ice and why everyone will be considering Stannis dead until he miraculously appears at the Battle of the Bastards; well, the Freys will be annihilated but Stannis will barely survive with only a fraction of his power remaining. He will reach an agreement with the Manderlys who will back stab the Freys to finish them off. From there, Stannis will go into hiding at Wolf’s Den to emerge at a proper moment (which he will as I explained above). This is why Stannis will be considered dead and that is how Ramsay will write the Pink Letter.

We should also briefly mention another plot thread that will converge to Winterfell. Davos will be put in a dungeon at Skagos. Meanwhile, Shaggydog will get himself killed while hunting a unicorn. Bran will see all these problems and decide to send his direwolf along with Meera and the boys to Skagos. They will free Davos and help him in his mission. Through this thread, Meera, Summer, Rickon, Osha and Davos will find their way to Eastwatch, White Harbor and eventually to Winterfell after the liberation.

Finally, Sam will have his story in the south wrapped up and he will find his way to Winterfell just in time to participate in the council. I believe Sam will arrive with the brotherhood without banners (at least the good portion of it) but that is the subject of another thread.

Now we are ready and set for the council. Winterfell has just been liberated. Jon, Val, Mel, Stannis, Meera, Summer, Rickon, Osha, Davos, Sam and various northern lords are present at the Great Hall. We are about 60% into TWoW.

The Council of Grindlord (Davos chapter)

I think Davos is the best choice to narrate this council. The problem of Bran will be high on the agenda but he will merely be used as an excuse in the underlying political context that dominates it. Let me explain.

  1. Remember, a good half of TWoW will have passed by this time. Westeros will be in a state of turmoil and instability. The Iron Throne will have lost huge swathes of domains to fAegon. A side note for the Vale: they will not take part in anything “north”. Littlefinger will be slain by Sansa early in TWoW and after that, there will be a power vacuum in the Vale. The Vale Lords will remain divided and the Vale will not declare for any pretender.
  2. Naturally, Stannis will want to use this opportunity to expand southwards and bring more domains under his rule. Specifically the Vale will be the crown prize because of its untouched food reserves and manpower. However, Stannis will need military power to bring the unruly Vale Lords under his rule. If he crushes a few defiant Vale Lords, the others will follow the example and bend the knee. That is how things work normally in Westeros.
  3. In the council, Stannis will declare his intention to lead a military campaign to bring the Vale under his rule, which naturally requires the Manderly Fleet and an army of northmen to crew it. However, the northmen will not be willing to waste their lives and resources for this war. They suffered too much in the previous wars already and the winter has come. Therefore, they need an excuse to deny or at least delay their support to Stannis. Bran will be just that, the excuse.

By now, it will be obvious that Bran lives and he is currently hiding in a cave beyond the Wall. Meera will tell them that much in the council. But I believe that prior to leaving the cave long before the council, Meera will be told by Bloodraven to hide certain parts of their story. For example she will not reveal the existence of the children of the forest or Bloodraven, or anything magic actually. She will not talk about the true nature of Coldhands. She will just say that a covered and unidentified ranger took them to a certain cave where they have been living with the wildlings. That is because people have a general disbelief and mistrust against magic. Telling the truth might make her seem like a lunatic with no credibility and endanger the lives/secrets of the children of the forest.

Manderly promised Davos to lend his support to Stannis if he brings his “liege lord” back. Davos and the readers are led to believe that bringing Rickon will be enough. But since the northmen need an excuse against Stannis as I explained above, this technicality card will be played. The northmen will follow the example of Manderly and ask Stannis to bring Bran back. Only after that they will pledge to follow Stannis into war for the Vale.

As a result, Stannis will grudgingly agree to wait while a ranging party goes to the cave and brings Bran back. But Stannis will insist on a deadline. If the ranging party misses the deadline, they will all be assumed dead along with Bran. Rickon will then be declared the Lord of Winterfell and the northmen will follow Stannis into war.

Jon will be the first one to volunteer. He will take Summer with him. Despite Jon’s protests, Val will tell that she is coming as well. For some odd reason, Mel will ask Stannis to be sent along which he will grant. Jon will decide to take additional rangers and wildlings to the party. And that will conclude this chapter.

The Fellowship of the Wrong (Mel chapter)

I think this ranging will be told from Mel’s POV, in her final chapter ever. As we get into her head, we will realize why she wanted to come along. She has been nurturing a growing suspicion which will eventually drive her into do something monumentally stupid.

We can trace this whole thing to even ASoS. When Stannis offered Winterfell to Jon with the condition of his conversion and burning the heart tree of Winterfell, it is obvious that Mel was the one behind that. Mel did a lot to ingratiate herself to Jon in ADwD, by displaying shows of power to persuade him to be a believer. But she failed at that and Jon is still an “unbeliever” in her eyes. She considers all the other faiths false but against the old gods, she grew wary, even alarmed.

Quote

 

A Dance with Dragons - Melisandre I

A wooden face, corpse white. Was this the enemy? A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames. He sees me. Beside him, a boy with a wolf’s face threw back his head and howled.

...

The dark recedes again … for a little while. But beyond the Wall, the enemy grows stronger, and should he win the dawn will never come again. She wondered if it had been his face that she had seen, staring out at her from the flames. No. Surely not. His visage would be more frightening than that, cold and black and too terrible for any man to gaze upon and live. The wooden man she had glimpsed, though, and the boy with the wolf’s face … they were his servants, surely … his champions, as Stannis was hers.

 

Mel previously had this vision of Bloodraven and Bran (who appeared to be a boy with a wolf’s head), which she grossly misinterpreted as the servants of the enemy. In the council, Mel saw Bran’s wolf and learned that Bran has been hiding in a cave. Mel noticed that Meera was not telling the full story. On top of that, Mel had a vision of Jon where “he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again” in ADwD. This chapter will reveal that she deeply thought about the Stark banner direwolf, the Stark words “winter is coming” and the whole warg thing and concluded that Bran is the wolf-headed boy in her vision and he has become a servant to the enemy, and the Starks are evil. Moreover, Jon too is on the way to become a servant of the enemy based on that wolf transformation vision and this journey to the champion of the enemy.

That is why Mel wanted to be a part of this ranging. She wants to slay the champions of the enemy, even if she needs to sacrifice her own life for that. All this be revealed in her inner thoughts during this chapter. Never forget, Mel is a religious fanatic. There is only one way this can end.

As for the ranging mission, they will be well provisioned and well prepared against the Others and the wights because they know what to expect. They will have few problems on the way to the cave.

There will be another huge event, which Mel will interpret as the final nail in the coffin. As soon as the party passes beyond the Wall, Benjen will approach and take the lead. He will be covering his mouth with a scarf, like Coldhands did. He will be staying away from the fire, like Coldhands did. He will have black hands, like Coldhands had. As Benjen is leading them to the cave, readers and Mel alike will realize that Benjen is a wight. Seeing that a wight (and a Stark at that) is leading them, Mel will be like FUCKING CONFIRMED!!! She will be 100% convinced that the Starks are servants of the enemy and Jon is on the way to become one and this whole thing is a trap.

That is why she will go “burn them all” once they get into the cave. By the way, GRRM will be meticulously hiding Mel’s true intention until the end of the chapter, just like he covered Dany’s inner thoughts during the Astapor chapter until the dracarys moment.

As soon as Mel sees Bloodraven, she will start a huge fire with her magic and powders, burning weirwood roots and anyone who is caught up in the fire. Val will slay Mel with the Dark Sister she finds in the cave but Mel won’t mind that. She will die in peace, being absolutely certain that she made a huge service to her god and his savior by dealing this huge blow to the enemy.

A Journey in the Dark (Bran chapter)

I think Bran seems like the natural choice to narrate the escape through Gorne’s Way. I think we need only a single chapter for this horror story. After Mel loses her shit, a complete chaos will erupt in the caves. Our characters and the children of the forest will be attacked by the wights that will be storming the cave. At the other hand, fire and smoke will be on the way to engulf them all. After Val slays Mel, the survivors will have no choice but to flee deeper into the caves. Naturally, they will leave Mel’s corpse behind but Val will keep the Dark Sister.

Surviving children of the forest will try to lead them as best as they can remember but even they do not have a full grasp of the vast cave system. Leaf told that much to Bran. They will have ravens and they will use them for scouting whenever they can. Surely, they will come across whatever monsters lurking down there. They will lose the track of time. They will lose their way a lot. The survivors will have to endure a literal nightmare through Gorne’s Way. At the end of the chapter, they will finally reach the crypts of Winterfell (no reason why that can’t happen).

Epilogue

As can be expected, Jon will miss the deadline by a large margin. They will learn that in their absence, they were all declared dead, Rickon was installed as the Lord of Winterfell and Stannis took the northmen with the Manderly fleet to war for the Vale. This will be a naval battle against Dany. Remember, we will be around 90% into TWoW at this point. Stannis will lose badly against Dany as foreshadowed in HotU. The northmen will abandon him after the defeat and declare Bran as King in the North. Defeated and abandoned, Stannis will retreat to Nightfort where he will be psychologically ready for the sacrifice of Shireen.

At the Epilogue of TWoW, one night Mel will appear at the Wall with bright blue eyes and convince Stannis to make the sacrifice. It will be implied that the Others revived Mel in full capacity and made her their own thrall. This blue Mel is the reason why GRRM wanted a blue Mel figurine in addition to the red one.

Stannis will wish for a dragon to give him power so that he can take what is his by rights and punish all those who defied him. I think Mel will indeed give him a dragon, which will be a creature of shadowbinding like the shadow assassin. Since Mel is a thrall of the Others at this point, the sacrifice will also cause the breaking of the Wall’s magic warding. This is much better than someone blowing a horn to bring down the Wall from the other side of the continent.

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Nicely done! Very comprehensive and imaginative, but based in real things in the first five books.

5 hours ago, Mithras said:

Val will realize that Jon is still alive, though barely. The cold will have frozen his wounds and prevented fatal blood loss. Just like Bran and Summer in AGoT, Jon will be drawing strength from Ghost and holding onto life longer than what should be normal. Borroq will tell Val that Jon’s soul is stuck in Ghost and unable to turn back at his own, and that Jon does not have much time left. They will decide to take Jon to Morna White Mask at Snowgate, who is a witch unlike Val. Morna will make a ritual sacrifice of Ghost and use that blood sacrifice to heal Jon’s body and put his soul back in. All this will be told through the first and the last POV of Ghost, which will be stylistically similar to Jon’s Ghost dreams in ADwD.

I hate this (the idea of Ghost being sacrificed) but I also love it. This fits with the death of the silent old man at the ruined inn when Jon escapes from Ygritte and the wildlings. Jon refuses to kill the old man (who I think is a symbolic Ghost and an Aslan figure) so Ygritte does it.

5 hours ago, Mithras said:

Surviving children of the forest will try to lead them as best as they can remember but even they do not have a full grasp of the vast cave system. Leaf told that much to Bran. They will have ravens and they will use them for scouting whenever they can. Surely, they will come across whatever monsters lurking down there. They will lose the track of time. They will lose their way a lot. The survivors will have to endure a literal nightmare through Gorne’s Way. At the end of the chapter, they will finally reach the crypts of Winterfell (no reason why that can’t happen).

What about a role for the mountain clans here? I'm thinking in particular of the man in the cave that Bran and his traveling companions met on the way to Bloodraven's cave -- Bran thought he was from House Liddle. His sigil was a pinecone and that matches up with the sentinel pines which have a function of both watching (Will in the AGoT prologue) and offering a potential path of escape (Bran tries to get Summer to climb a leaning pine tree over the wall of the god's wood at Winterfell). The man clearly recognized Bran but didn't say anything, understanding that the secret of his identity was important to his survival. Maybe he and his family have a good grasp on the network of caves and can help lead Bran out after he reaches a certain point.

It will be interesting to see how much of your prediction matches up with what GRRM has in store for us.

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@Mithras

While I agree with a few of your points, I think that your predictions are completely rushing the story.

I also think this thread got really weird and went sideways. It became a lot more about Mel than about Bran. How can you make a thread about Bran when Bran is barely there.

9 hours ago, Mithras said:

Intro

Since the end of ACoK, Bran only got travelogue chapters as he became increasingly more isolated from the rest of the story. GRRM talked about his difficulties in writing Bran many times. I won’t go into that. The problem is, how will Bran return to being a prominent character again? How will he reconnect with the rest of the story? How will he matter?

I think we can safely say that Bran will leave the cave. Apart from a body snatcher scenario, which everybody should hate, Bran has to leave that cave somehow and start interacting with the rest of the cast. Bran will not be plugged to a tree in that cave forever, which has always been a fringe idea.

Given the limited page space in TWoW vs. so much stuff that needs to happen, GRRM must be very efficient in TWoW. He must kill two birds with one stone, and he must do it over and over again. By this, I mean that he does not have the luxury of writing single, isolated subplots anymore. While solving a subplot, he must also solve another standing problem and tie as many loose ends as he can. The story should start contracting. Isolated characters should start coming together and their timelines should be synchronized. With this approach, I think GRRM can and will use Bran’s return as one of the major objectives that will interact with and drive the larger northern arc. This way GRRM will also be bringing Bran to the forefront again.

Why will Bran leave the cave?

I think the ward that guards the cave will be breached and the Others will storm the cave. This is an old theory which makes sense. I don’t want to blow the OP with too much quotation and textual analysis but Bloodraven said “And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late.” which I always interpreted as he knows that his days are numbered. With all the Bloodraven-Odin connotations and Odin foreseeing his death, I think Bloodraven foresaw his own death and it will be soon; too soon in fact to teach Bran enough about greenseeing and the Others.

GRRM is free to figure out how exactly the ward will wear off. I will provide a theory for that as well. But it will happen somehow and Bloodraven will be slain. Afterwards, Bran will have his “Fly, you fools” moment.

Where to next?

After the Others start storming the cave, there are only two ways ahead: up or down. They might either get out of the caves and try to reach the Wall through the frozen wilderness; or they might dive deeper into the caves and try to find a subterranean way that can bring them to the Wall or maybe even beyond.

I think a journey through the frozen wilderness is not possible. Apart from all the logistical difficulties, the Others shouldn’t let Bran walk off so easily. Therefore, down will be the way to go where the Others cannot follow. I think GRRM laid enough foundation for Gorne’s Way to play a key part in the story (which I won’t delve into because as I said, I don’t want to dive too much into quotation and textual analysis). Escape through Gorne’s Way makes a wonderful horror story as befits Bran’s characterization and the general dark tone of TWoW. GRRM should not be able to resist this. Furthermore, since Gorne’s Way is an uncharted and timeless place, GRRM can make Bran resurface anywhere and any time according to the needs of the story. This should also be very appealing to GRRM because it allows him to avoid problems associated with logistics, travel times and intersecting timelines.

Two birds with one stone

Bran simply coming back without having anything to do with the rest of the story/cast would not be interesting. That would mean Bran will start the ultimate volume of the series as still isolated from the rest of the story. That would make the fans question what kind of an endgame might be in for Bran, if he is going to stay isolated for so long. Keeping Bran isolated also means waste of valuable TWoW page space. Bran’s return offers a huge potential to tie many loose ends in a climactic way and this requires GRRM play Bran’s return into the larger northern arc.

I'm not disagreeing with you on this but about Gorne's Way? Why do you think that the escape through Gorne's Way is good horror material? Again I don't disagree given that leaving Bloodraven's Cave the same way he came is going to be almost impossible given the fact that the weather is worsening and that they are already soooooo far north. But why horror? You think that there will be some monsters beneath?

While I have ALWAYS believed that Bran will leave the cave and not turn into a weirwood tree (well, not until the series epilogue but that's a different topic), I don't see him leaving the cave until the climax (aka the final stretch) of The Winds of Winter and that he will pop up in Winterfell or somewhere close in A Dream of Spring. The last time Bran that had more than 4 chapters was A Clash of Kings. If GRRM really wants to make Bran the endgame king and have it make sense and feel good, we need to start seeing Bran a lot more. Like who is Bran? I personally have had a very hard time getting a feel for his personality.

And while I do think that he will start connecting to the main story and interacting with the other characters, I definitely don't think that it will happen "conventionally." I think that it will all be remote conncetions via the weirwoods.

For example, I can see him easily becoming involved with the Vale plot and the Battle of Winterfell plot. Sansa has spent a lot of time in godswoods and the godswood at the Gates of the Moon has a weirwood for a heart tree. Sansa is also very nostalgic and this will be the first weirwood tree she will have seen in years lol. That's not nothing.

Additionally, Theon, Stannis and Asha are all together and (if GRRM doesn't rewrite the sample Theon chapter) are all about to be in front of a weirwood. And the ravens are speaking to Theon. Bran may even be our introductory point to Howland Reed at Greywater Watch. I actually can imagine Bran being more involved in what's happening at Winterfell than at the Wall. 

I also think that this is how Bran will start brushing shoulders with people in far southern Westeros. Namely Areo Hotah but also the Tyrells, Euron and Samwell. I think that the Areo POV and the Bran POV (which will probably come after each other) are going to be how GRRM reveals Jon Snow's parentage. Areo is going to mix it up with the Dayne family and they seem to have a lot to do with whatever it was that happened at first the Tower of Joy and then Starfall.

And thanks to what we have learned from the Arianne chapters, Gorne's Way can take Bran all the way to the Stormlands.

That said, I do think Bran is going to have to run. So to speak. I think the Others will follow him regardless; it's just that travelling through Gorne's Way will be warmer/safer.

Making Bran the King in the North pre-Dream is also very premature. You're also disregarding Robb's will which has been a pretty big thing for a while now.

9 hours ago, Mithras said:

 

A Journey in the Dark (Bran chapter)

I think Bran seems like the natural choice to narrate the escape through Gorne’s Way. I think we need only a single chapter for this horror story. After Mel loses her shit, a complete chaos will erupt in the caves. Our characters and the children of the forest will be attacked by the wights that will be storming the cave. At the other hand, fire and smoke will be on the way to engulf them all. After Val slays Mel, the survivors will have no choice but to flee deeper into the caves. Naturally, they will leave Mel’s corpse behind but Val will keep the Dark Sister.

Surviving children of the forest will try to lead them as best as they can remember but even they do not have a full grasp of the vast cave system. Leaf told that much to Bran. They will have ravens and they will use them for scouting whenever they can. Surely, they will come across whatever monsters lurking down there. They will lose the track of time. They will lose their way a lot. The survivors will have to endure a literal nightmare through Gorne’s Way. At the end of the chapter, they will finally reach the crypts of Winterfell (no reason why that can’t happen).

Epilogue

As can be expected, Jon will miss the deadline by a large margin. They will learn that in their absence, they were all declared dead, Rickon was installed as the Lord of Winterfell and Stannis took the northmen with the Manderly fleet to war for the Vale. This will be a naval battle against Dany. Remember, we will be around 90% into TWoW at this point. Stannis will lose badly against Dany as foreshadowed in HotU. The northmen will abandon him after the defeat and declare Bran as King in the North. Defeated and abandoned, Stannis will retreat to Nightfort where he will be psychologically ready for the sacrifice of Shireen.

At the Epilogue of TWoW, one night Mel will appear at the Wall with bright blue eyes and convince Stannis to make the sacrifice. It will be implied that the Others revived Mel in full capacity and made her their own thrall. This blue Mel is the reason why GRRM wanted a blue Mel figurine in addition to the red one.

Stannis will wish for a dragon to give him power so that he can take what is his by rights and punish all those who defied him. I think Mel will indeed give him a dragon, which will be a creature of shadowbinding like the shadow assassin. Since Mel is a thrall of the Others at this point, the sacrifice will also cause the breaking of the Wall’s magic warding. This is much better than someone blowing a horn to bring down the Wall from the other side of the continent.

I can't at all envision Mel becoming an Other. I can, however, imagine Stannis becoming an Other.

I can see Mel making a couple very big mistakes and/or sacrifices that damages or weakens the Wall. But I feel like Euron has to be the one to ultimately take down the Wall if he is to be the ultimate human villain. Since he is practically confirmed as being the ultimate human villain in both "the game of thrones" and the "song of ice and fire," he has to do something huge in Winds.

I do think that Stannis will sacrifice Shireen. I think he'll do it before he becomes an Other and the Wall falls. Nightfort is the place.

Hmmm...who knows? Maybe Bran will witness the horror there.

But what if Mel is right? What if Bran (and maybe even the rest of House Stark eventually) is on the wrong side of the war and doesn't even know it?

Speaking of Bran and horror, you mentioned that Bran's characterization fits well with the horror genre. Bran's story does remind me an awful lot of Pan's Labyrinth and Hereditary (if you haven't seen Hereditary, watch it today!) edge but what exactly do you mean?

10 hours ago, Mithras said:

 

The Council of Grindlord (Davos chapter)

I think Davos is the best choice to narrate this council. The problem of Bran will be high on the agenda but he will merely be used as an excuse in the underlying political context that dominates it. Let me explain.

  1. Remember, a good half of TWoW will have passed by this time. Westeros will be in a state of turmoil and instability. The Iron Throne will have lost huge swathes of domains to fAegon. A side note for the Vale: they will not take part in anything “north”. Littlefinger will be slain by Sansa early in TWoW and after that, there will be a power vacuum in the Vale. The Vale Lords will remain divided and the Vale will not declare for any pretender.
  2. Naturally, Stannis will want to use this opportunity to expand southwards and bring more domains under his rule. Specifically the Vale will be the crown prize because of its untouched food reserves and manpower. However, Stannis will need military power to bring the unruly Vale Lords under his rule. If he crushes a few defiant Vale Lords, the others will follow the example and bend the knee. That is how things work normally in Westeros.
  3. In the council, Stannis will declare his intention to lead a military campaign to bring the Vale under his rule, which naturally requires the Manderly Fleet and an army of northmen to crew it. However, the northmen will not be willing to waste their lives and resources for this war. They suffered too much in the previous wars already and the winter has come. Therefore, they need an excuse to deny or at least delay their support to Stannis. Bran will be just that, the excuse.

By now, it will be obvious that Bran lives and he is currently hiding in a cave beyond the Wall. Meera will tell them that much in the council. But I believe that prior to leaving the cave long before the council, Meera will be told by Bloodraven to hide certain parts of their story. For example she will not reveal the existence of the children of the forest or Bloodraven, or anything magic actually. She will not talk about the true nature of Coldhands. She will just say that a covered and unidentified ranger took them to a certain cave where they have been living with the wildlings. That is because people have a general disbelief and mistrust against magic. Telling the truth might make her seem like a lunatic with no credibility and endanger the lives/secrets of the children of the forest.

Manderly promised Davos to lend his support to Stannis if he brings his “liege lord” back. Davos and the readers are led to believe that bringing Rickon will be enough. But since the northmen need an excuse against Stannis as I explained above, this technicality card will be played. The northmen will follow the example of Manderly and ask Stannis to bring Bran back. Only after that they will pledge to follow Stannis into war for the Vale.

As a result, Stannis will grudgingly agree to wait while a ranging party goes to the cave and brings Bran back. But Stannis will insist on a deadline. If the ranging party misses the deadline, they will all be assumed dead along with Bran. Rickon will then be declared the Lord of Winterfell and the northmen will follow Stannis into war.

So you're really expecting the Vale to be neutral the entire series?

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3 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

While I agree with a few of your points, I think that your predictions are completely rushing the story.

Interesting because Stannis fans say that I am dragging the story. They want an almost effortless taking of Winterfell right at the beginning and a quick end to the Boltons. I guess it all depends on personal headcanon.

3 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

I also think this thread got really weird and went sideways. It became a lot more about Mel than about Bran. How can you make a thread about Bran when Bran is barely there.

I agree that it seems that way. I wanted to show how this ranging will take place, why Mel will do crazy shit and how Bran will return through Gorne’s Way. I think it was necessary to discuss Mel’s evolution.

3 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

I'm not disagreeing with you on this but about Gorne's Way? Why do you think that the escape through Gorne's Way is good horror material? Again I don't disagree given that leaving Bloodraven's Cave the same way he came is going to be almost impossible given the fact that the weather is worsening and that they are already soooooo far north. But why horror? You think that there will be some monsters beneath?

"You know nothing, Jon Snow. Gendel did not die. He cut his way free, through the crows, and led his people back north with the wolves howling at their heels. Only Gendel did not know the caves as Gorne had, and took a wrong turn." She swept the torch back and forth, so the shadows jumped and moved. "Deeper he went, and deeper, and when he tried t' turn back the ways that seemed familiar ended in stone rather than sky. Soon his torches began t' fail, one by one, till finally there was naught but dark. Gendel's folk were never seen again, but on a still night you can hear their children's children's children sobbing under the hills, still looking for the way back up. Listen? Do you hear them?"

All Jon could hear was the falling water and the faint crackle of flames. "This way under the Wall was lost as well?"

"Some have searched for it. Them that go too deep find Gendel's children, and Gendel's children are always hungry." Smiling, she set the torch carefully in a notch of rock, and came toward him. "There's naught to eat in the dark but flesh," she whispered, biting at his neck.

You can also count some exotic skeletal remains Bran saw in the cave.

3 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

And while I do think that he will start connecting to the main story and interacting with the other characters, I definitely don't think that it will happen "conventionally." I think that it will all be remote conncetions via the weirwoods.

For example, I can see him easily becoming involved with the Vale plot and the Battle of Winterfell plot. Sansa has spent a lot of time in godswoods and the godswood at the Gates of the Moon has a weirwood for a heart tree. Sansa is also very nostalgic and this will be the first weirwood tree she will have seen in years lol. That's not nothing.

Additionally, Theon, Stannis and Asha are all together and (if GRRM doesn't rewrite the sample Theon chapter) are all about to be in front of a weirwood. And the ravens are speaking to Theon. Bran may even be our introductory point to Howland Reed at Greywater Watch. I actually can imagine Bran being more involved in what's happening at Winterfell than at the Wall. 

I think this is a cheesy way of using magic and GRRM said he wouldn’t handle magic like that.

3 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

I also think that this is how Bran will start brushing shoulders with people in far southern Westeros. Namely Areo Hotah but also the Tyrells, Euron and Samwell. I think that the Areo POV and the Bran POV (which will probably come after each other) are going to be how GRRM reveals Jon Snow's parentage. Areo is going to mix it up with the Dayne family and they seem to have a lot to do with whatever it was that happened at first the Tower of Joy and then Starfall.

I think Areo will be slain by Darkstar in his first chapter. Darkstar will eventually go and become Dany's knight/lover. If the Daynes know anything about RLJ and if Darkstar is privy to that (which is a big if), I am sure that GRRM will find better ways to reveal it. There is Howland Reed after all.

3 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

And thanks to what we have learned from the Arianne chapters, Gorne's Way can take Bran all the way to the Stormlands.

I don't think Bran has anything to do with Stormlands.

3 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

Making Bran the King in the North pre-Dream is also very premature. You're also disregarding Robb's will which has been a pretty big thing for a while now.

If everything went according to plans, we would have the 5 year gap, which means all those who know about Robb’s Will were going to sit on it for 5 years without doing anything with it. I don’t think Robb’s Will matter. The survival of the Stark boys and the unwillingness of Jon will make it null and void.

3 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

I can see Mel making a couple very big mistakes and/or sacrifices that damages or weakens the Wall. But I feel like Euron has to be the one to ultimately take down the Wall if he is to be the ultimate human villain. Since he is practically confirmed as being the ultimate human villain in both "the game of thrones" and the "song of ice and fire," he has to do something huge in Winds.

I don't think Euron is the ultimate villain. He will create further chaos in the Reach, by summoning a storm that will cripple the Hightower and Redwyne Fleets for a while. But the ironborn will eventually be defeated at Oldtown where Euron will be slain by Sam. If you are looking for an incarnate of the Night's King, look no further than Stannis.

I did not go into ADoS stuff but at the end of TWoW, Stannis will get his shadow dragon from Mel. This shadow dragon will be fueled by Shireen’s soul. In the process, Stannis will also spend the last flicker of his life flame and turn into some sort of wight.

In ADoS, Stannis will go after the usurpers and traitors who defied him, starting with Bran and the northmen. Between the Others and Stannis, the north will be overwhelmed and Jon will decide to lead the survivors south.

Eventually Stannis and his shadow dragon will be slain by one of Dany’s dragons. This will fulfill two prophetic dreams and visions: Stannis’ vision of himself being burned by his crown; and Shireen’s prophetic dreams at the beginning of ACoK where dragons were coming to eat her. Recall that a part of Shireen will be in that shadow dragon.

 

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There could be a Ghost POV, but in the way that we have the direwolves POV when Jon or Bran or Arya have slipped into their skins. So man-rock, steelfingers, 

And I don't think Mel will be the only POV at the Wall. I think Bran will a POV there as well, and I think he and Jon will interact in the exact same way they did all the way back in ACoK. I think that interaction was foreshadowing of things to come for Jon and Bran. That interaction pushed Jon into Ghost's skin, that's when Jon warged Ghost for the first time. So maybe a future interaction will push Jon out of Ghost. I think we might have a resolution of Jon's crypt dream before Jon gets back to his body, though.

I could see Bran escaping with the others through Gorne's Way. It's where the cave's exit is that will be interesting. We know the exit is south of the Wall, but we don't know how south exactly. Is it be somewhere near Castle Black, or near Winterfell? Or will it be all the way in the Rainwood? 

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15 hours ago, Mithras said:

Intro

Since the end of ACoK, Bran only got travelogue chapters as he became increasingly more isolated from the rest of the story. GRRM talked about his difficulties in writing Bran many times. I won’t go into that. The problem is, how will Bran return to being a prominent character again? How will he reconnect with the rest of the story? How will he matter?

I think we can safely say that Bran will leave the cave. Apart from a body snatcher scenario, which everybody should hate, Bran has to leave that cave somehow and start interacting with the rest of the cast. Bran will not be plugged to a tree in that cave forever, which has always been a fringe idea.

Given the limited page space in TWoW vs. so much stuff that needs to happen, GRRM must be very efficient in TWoW. He must kill two birds with one stone, and he must do it over and over again. By this, I mean that he does not have the luxury of writing single, isolated subplots anymore. While solving a subplot, he must also solve another standing problem and tie as many loose ends as he can. The story should start contracting. Isolated characters should start coming together and their timelines should be synchronized. With this approach, I think GRRM can and will use Bran’s return as one of the major objectives that will interact with and drive the larger northern arc. This way GRRM will also be bringing Bran to the forefront again.

Why will Bran leave the cave?

I think the ward that guards the cave will be breached and the Others will storm the cave. This is an old theory which makes sense. I don’t want to blow the OP with too much quotation and textual analysis but Bloodraven said “And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late.” which I always interpreted as he knows that his days are numbered. With all the Bloodraven-Odin connotations and Odin foreseeing his death, I think Bloodraven foresaw his own death and it will be soon; too soon in fact to teach Bran enough about greenseeing and the Others.

GRRM is free to figure out how exactly the ward will wear off. I will provide a theory for that as well. But it will happen somehow and Bloodraven will be slain. Afterwards, Bran will have his “Fly, you fools” moment.

Where to next?

After the Others start storming the cave, there are only two ways ahead: up or down. They might either get out of the caves and try to reach the Wall through the frozen wilderness; or they might dive deeper into the caves and try to find a subterranean way that can bring them to the Wall or maybe even beyond.

I think a journey through the frozen wilderness is not possible. Apart from all the logistical difficulties, the Others shouldn’t let Bran walk off so easily. Therefore, down will be the way to go where the Others cannot follow. I think GRRM laid enough foundation for Gorne’s Way to play a key part in the story (which I won’t delve into because as I said, I don’t want to dive too much into quotation and textual analysis). Escape through Gorne’s Way makes a wonderful horror story as befits Bran’s characterization and the general dark tone of TWoW. GRRM should not be able to resist this. Furthermore, since Gorne’s Way is an uncharted and timeless place, GRRM can make Bran resurface anywhere and any time according to the needs of the story. This should also be very appealing to GRRM because it allows him to avoid problems associated with logistics, travel times and intersecting timelines.

Two birds with one stone

Bran simply coming back without having anything to do with the rest of the story/cast would not be interesting. That would mean Bran will start the ultimate volume of the series as still isolated from the rest of the story. That would make the fans question what kind of an endgame might be in for Bran, if he is going to stay isolated for so long. Keeping Bran isolated also means waste of valuable TWoW page space. Bran’s return offers a huge potential to tie many loose ends in a climactic way and this requires GRRM play Bran’s return into the larger northern arc.

Ides of Marsh

At the night of the assassination, neither Mel nor others saw Jon being stabbed. It was a dark, chaotic night with heavy snowfall. Due to reading Jon’s POV, readers might think that he is always under the spotlight and everyone should be watching him. But the characters in the story are not reading the books. Jon was just a person among the many at that night. Jon tried to make his voice heard and put an end to the madness but no one noticed him. People were pouring out of every opening, screaming and running. A giant was roaring and tearing a person apart, where all the spotlights were pointed at. In this chaos, it is no surprise that no one even noticed Jon, except the assassins who were specifically looking out for him. I think Marsh and the rest will quickly take Jon’s body away and put him into an ice cell before anyone sees.

Marsh is thinking of preserving Jon’s body so that he can show it to Ramsay as the proof of their renounce of Jon when Ramsay shows up at the Wall, as he said he would per the Pink Letter. After Marsh secretly stashes Jon’s body in the ice cells, the heavy snowfall will bury the ice cells just like Jon commented that night before he removed the prisoners (except the two corpses) in the ice cells. Next morning, the accumulated snow covering gates of the ice cells will show no sign of anyone breaking in or out.

All this will be revealed to the readers piece by piece and retroactively in a couple of chapters. I gave this explanation from an omnipotent POV to present the case clearly.

TWoW Melisandre I

The aftermath of the assassination will be told in Mel’s first TWoW chapter. Next morning, Marsh will declare that Jon deserted and became an oathbreaker, which will explain why Jon is missing along with Val and certain wildlings, and why no one saw them since the night before. Marsh will even send letters to other castles and northern lords, declaring Jon’s desertion and asking them to catch and execute him. This is the standard procedure for deserters as we know since the first chapter of Bran in AGoT.

Mel will not be sure whether she should believe Marsh or not. She will tell Selyse to pack her things up and fly to Nightfort because of the unstable situation at Castle Black. Mel will have no part or knowledge of Jon’s whereabouts and his “return” until Jon is back.

I don’t think Mel will have anything to do with Jon’s “return”. I know it is too tempting to think that Mel will resurrect him but I don’t think that will be the case. On the contrary, the fact that Mel will be oblivious to Jon’s mysterious “return” will add to her growing suspicions towards him and also Val.

Ghost I

The readers will see what actually happened to Jon that night through Jon’s first chapter in TWoW, which will actually be a Ghost POV. After the assassination, Jon’s spirit will go into Ghost as foreshadowed extensively. During the night of the Ides of Marsh, Val will free Ghost and figure out that Jon’s body is in the ice cells which are being buried by the falling snow. Val will get help, probably from Borroq and his boar. They will dig up the snow and take Jon’s body away. The falling snow will cover their tracks. This way, neither Marsh nor Mel’s POV will notice a thing.

Val will realize that Jon is still alive, though barely. The cold will have frozen his wounds and prevented fatal blood loss. Just like Bran and Summer in AGoT, Jon will be drawing strength from Ghost and holding onto life longer than what should be normal. Borroq will tell Val that Jon’s soul is stuck in Ghost and unable to turn back at his own, and that Jon does not have much time left. They will decide to take Jon to Morna White Mask at Snowgate, who is a witch unlike Val. Morna will make a ritual sacrifice of Ghost and use that blood sacrifice to heal Jon’s body and put his soul back in. All this will be told through the first and the last POV of Ghost, which will be stylistically similar to Jon’s Ghost dreams in ADwD. Jon will also complete that crypt dream in this state during this chapter but that is the subject of another post. After this Ghost chapter, Jon will return to getting his regular chapters.

Intermezzo

We are making a large jump here, approximately from 10% to 55-60% of TWoW. Lots of stuff will take place in every part of the story during this jump. We will briefly mention only the relevant threads to the subject of this post.

In the subsequent Jon and Mel chapters, Jon will naturally not reveal anything to Mel about what happened at that night, how he got healed, what happened to Ghost, where is Val and the other wildlings in all this etc. This will add to Mel’s suspicions towards Jon and Val, especially after seeing them romantically getting closer. Mel will start suspecting that “something” is off with Jon, that he is under Val’s spell, and that they are hiding something.

Jon’s story from 10% to 55-60% of TWoW will mainly focus on Ramsay and the Battle of the Bastards, which is not the main topic of this thread. GRRM will build up the conflict between Jon and Ramsay, which will be concluded around mid-TWoW. Jon will be saved by the last minute cavalry charge of Stannis (whom everyone will be considering dead up until this point) with the Manderly knights. This will be the end of the Boltons except a small garrison at Dreadfort. Winterfell will quickly liberated afterwards, which will bring us to the council about what to do next.

If you really want to know about the Battle on Ice and why everyone will be considering Stannis dead until he miraculously appears at the Battle of the Bastards; well, the Freys will be annihilated but Stannis will barely survive with only a fraction of his power remaining. He will reach an agreement with the Manderlys who will back stab the Freys to finish them off. From there, Stannis will go into hiding at Wolf’s Den to emerge at a proper moment (which he will as I explained above). This is why Stannis will be considered dead and that is how Ramsay will write the Pink Letter.

We should also briefly mention another plot thread that will converge to Winterfell. Davos will be put in a dungeon at Skagos. Meanwhile, Shaggydog will get himself killed while hunting a unicorn. Bran will see all these problems and decide to send his direwolf along with Meera and the boys to Skagos. They will free Davos and help him in his mission. Through this thread, Meera, Summer, Rickon, Osha and Davos will find their way to Eastwatch, White Harbor and eventually to Winterfell after the liberation.

Finally, Sam will have his story in the south wrapped up and he will find his way to Winterfell just in time to participate in the council. I believe Sam will arrive with the brotherhood without banners (at least the good portion of it) but that is the subject of another thread.

Now we are ready and set for the council. Winterfell has just been liberated. Jon, Val, Mel, Stannis, Meera, Summer, Rickon, Osha, Davos, Sam and various northern lords are present at the Great Hall. We are about 60% into TWoW.

The Council of Grindlord (Davos chapter)

I think Davos is the best choice to narrate this council. The problem of Bran will be high on the agenda but he will merely be used as an excuse in the underlying political context that dominates it. Let me explain.

  1. Remember, a good half of TWoW will have passed by this time. Westeros will be in a state of turmoil and instability. The Iron Throne will have lost huge swathes of domains to fAegon. A side note for the Vale: they will not take part in anything “north”. Littlefinger will be slain by Sansa early in TWoW and after that, there will be a power vacuum in the Vale. The Vale Lords will remain divided and the Vale will not declare for any pretender.
  2. Naturally, Stannis will want to use this opportunity to expand southwards and bring more domains under his rule. Specifically the Vale will be the crown prize because of its untouched food reserves and manpower. However, Stannis will need military power to bring the unruly Vale Lords under his rule. If he crushes a few defiant Vale Lords, the others will follow the example and bend the knee. That is how things work normally in Westeros.
  3. In the council, Stannis will declare his intention to lead a military campaign to bring the Vale under his rule, which naturally requires the Manderly Fleet and an army of northmen to crew it. However, the northmen will not be willing to waste their lives and resources for this war. They suffered too much in the previous wars already and the winter has come. Therefore, they need an excuse to deny or at least delay their support to Stannis. Bran will be just that, the excuse.

By now, it will be obvious that Bran lives and he is currently hiding in a cave beyond the Wall. Meera will tell them that much in the council. But I believe that prior to leaving the cave long before the council, Meera will be told by Bloodraven to hide certain parts of their story. For example she will not reveal the existence of the children of the forest or Bloodraven, or anything magic actually. She will not talk about the true nature of Coldhands. She will just say that a covered and unidentified ranger took them to a certain cave where they have been living with the wildlings. That is because people have a general disbelief and mistrust against magic. Telling the truth might make her seem like a lunatic with no credibility and endanger the lives/secrets of the children of the forest.

Manderly promised Davos to lend his support to Stannis if he brings his “liege lord” back. Davos and the readers are led to believe that bringing Rickon will be enough. But since the northmen need an excuse against Stannis as I explained above, this technicality card will be played. The northmen will follow the example of Manderly and ask Stannis to bring Bran back. Only after that they will pledge to follow Stannis into war for the Vale.

As a result, Stannis will grudgingly agree to wait while a ranging party goes to the cave and brings Bran back. But Stannis will insist on a deadline. If the ranging party misses the deadline, they will all be assumed dead along with Bran. Rickon will then be declared the Lord of Winterfell and the northmen will follow Stannis into war.

Jon will be the first one to volunteer. He will take Summer with him. Despite Jon’s protests, Val will tell that she is coming as well. For some odd reason, Mel will ask Stannis to be sent along which he will grant. Jon will decide to take additional rangers and wildlings to the party. And that will conclude this chapter.

The Fellowship of the Wrong (Mel chapter)

I think this ranging will be told from Mel’s POV, in her final chapter ever. As we get into her head, we will realize why she wanted to come along. She has been nurturing a growing suspicion which will eventually drive her into do something monumentally stupid.

We can trace this whole thing to even ASoS. When Stannis offered Winterfell to Jon with the condition of his conversion and burning the heart tree of Winterfell, it is obvious that Mel was the one behind that. Mel did a lot to ingratiate herself to Jon in ADwD, by displaying shows of power to persuade him to be a believer. But she failed at that and Jon is still an “unbeliever” in her eyes. She considers all the other faiths false but against the old gods, she grew wary, even alarmed.

Mel previously had this vision of Bloodraven and Bran (who appeared to be a boy with a wolf’s head), which she grossly misinterpreted as the servants of the enemy. In the council, Mel saw Bran’s wolf and learned that Bran has been hiding in a cave. Mel noticed that Meera was not telling the full story. On top of that, Mel had a vision of Jon where “he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again” in ADwD. This chapter will reveal that she deeply thought about the Stark banner direwolf, the Stark words “winter is coming” and the whole warg thing and concluded that Bran is the wolf-headed boy in her vision and he has become a servant to the enemy, and the Starks are evil. Moreover, Jon too is on the way to become a servant of the enemy based on that wolf transformation vision and this journey to the champion of the enemy.

That is why Mel wanted to be a part of this ranging. She wants to slay the champions of the enemy, even if she needs to sacrifice her own life for that. All this be revealed in her inner thoughts during this chapter. Never forget, Mel is a religious fanatic. There is only one way this can end.

As for the ranging mission, they will be well provisioned and well prepared against the Others and the wights because they know what to expect. They will have few problems on the way to the cave.

There will be another huge event, which Mel will interpret as the final nail in the coffin. As soon as the party passes beyond the Wall, Benjen will approach and take the lead. He will be covering his mouth with a scarf, like Coldhands did. He will be staying away from the fire, like Coldhands did. He will have black hands, like Coldhands had. As Benjen is leading them to the cave, readers and Mel alike will realize that Benjen is a wight. Seeing that a wight (and a Stark at that) is leading them, Mel will be like FUCKING CONFIRMED!!! She will be 100% convinced that the Starks are servants of the enemy and Jon is on the way to become one and this whole thing is a trap.

That is why she will go “burn them all” once they get into the cave. By the way, GRRM will be meticulously hiding Mel’s true intention until the end of the chapter, just like he covered Dany’s inner thoughts during the Astapor chapter until the dracarys moment.

As soon as Mel sees Bloodraven, she will start a huge fire with her magic and powders, burning weirwood roots and anyone who is caught up in the fire. Val will slay Mel with the Dark Sister she finds in the cave but Mel won’t mind that. She will die in peace, being absolutely certain that she made a huge service to her god and his savior by dealing this huge blow to the enemy.

A Journey in the Dark (Bran chapter)

I think Bran seems like the natural choice to narrate the escape through Gorne’s Way. I think we need only a single chapter for this horror story. After Mel loses her shit, a complete chaos will erupt in the caves. Our characters and the children of the forest will be attacked by the wights that will be storming the cave. At the other hand, fire and smoke will be on the way to engulf them all. After Val slays Mel, the survivors will have no choice but to flee deeper into the caves. Naturally, they will leave Mel’s corpse behind but Val will keep the Dark Sister.

Surviving children of the forest will try to lead them as best as they can remember but even they do not have a full grasp of the vast cave system. Leaf told that much to Bran. They will have ravens and they will use them for scouting whenever they can. Surely, they will come across whatever monsters lurking down there. They will lose the track of time. They will lose their way a lot. The survivors will have to endure a literal nightmare through Gorne’s Way. At the end of the chapter, they will finally reach the crypts of Winterfell (no reason why that can’t happen).

Epilogue

As can be expected, Jon will miss the deadline by a large margin. They will learn that in their absence, they were all declared dead, Rickon was installed as the Lord of Winterfell and Stannis took the northmen with the Manderly fleet to war for the Vale. This will be a naval battle against Dany. Remember, we will be around 90% into TWoW at this point. Stannis will lose badly against Dany as foreshadowed in HotU. The northmen will abandon him after the defeat and declare Bran as King in the North. Defeated and abandoned, Stannis will retreat to Nightfort where he will be psychologically ready for the sacrifice of Shireen.

At the Epilogue of TWoW, one night Mel will appear at the Wall with bright blue eyes and convince Stannis to make the sacrifice. It will be implied that the Others revived Mel in full capacity and made her their own thrall. This blue Mel is the reason why GRRM wanted a blue Mel figurine in addition to the red one.

Stannis will wish for a dragon to give him power so that he can take what is his by rights and punish all those who defied him. I think Mel will indeed give him a dragon, which will be a creature of shadowbinding like the shadow assassin. Since Mel is a thrall of the Others at this point, the sacrifice will also cause the breaking of the Wall’s magic warding. This is much better than someone blowing a horn to bring down the Wall from the other side of the continent.

I actually really enjoyed reading this theory. I have always been confused as to how everything could pan out with the North, the Others, and Stannis. I've always been opposed to Stannis becoming a night's king figure, but I would like it if it happened this way. I agree Bran will be leaving the cave soon, the people who think he'll stay there forever are just not thinking about how the story needs to wrap up and come together in the end. I've always supported the idea of Jon going north of the wall to save Bran. The only difference I feel, is I think Jon will be king in the north, at least at some point in the story. I think he will marry Dany for an alliance.

As to how I think Bran will factor into the story, I recently made a post about how Bran will help rebuild Westeros after the threat of the Others.

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On 5/22/2020 at 10:37 AM, BlackLightning said:

So you're really expecting the Vale to be neutral the entire series?

By the way, not at all. After defeating Stannis, Dany will get the allegiance of the Vale. The food and manpower reserves of the Vale will be the backbone of Dany’s war effort in the Second Dance of Dragons. From the Vale, Dany will start her invasion of Westeros, by subduing the River Lords first and then settling in Harrenhal and using it as a stronghold.

Dany will not bring a gargantuan force from Essos. That is logistically impossible at this point, even if GRRM thought otherwise at the beginning of the story. Dany will bring enough foreigners to dub her as a foreign conqueror by Team fAegon but the actual fighting power of Dany will be composed of Westerosi armies.

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