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TheLastWolf

Arya Stark: Mindless Psycho Killer or Righteous Avenger?

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Arya Stark and Ramsay Bolton mirror each other. They both have quite a lot in common besides skin peeling. Both are possible sociopaths.  

Arya Stark and Ramsay Bolton may foil one another. One could spoil it for the other. Arya's arrival in the north could spoil it for Ramsay. Ramsay can also spoil an Arya-Nymberia reunion if he and his hunters find the pack first and kills Nym.

I felt that this had to have a thread of its own. I've seen as lot of comments and replies about Arya's mental health by a lot of obvious Stark haters, or at least, those who support other factions. @Prince Rhaego's Soul and @Wolfs Baneare just two who I remembered. Arya has been described as a sociopath and possibly would have been described as a psychopath, and I'll tell why she isn't both and what she is. At least to the best of my knowledge. I'm a confessed Stark fan boy as many describe, but I'll be as unbiased as possible, unlike certain haters.

I agree that Arya is psychologically and mentally different from other kids her age. But seven hells! This is Westeros! I've tried my best not to justify the conditions which made her into what she is now. But a majority of her personality is what she was in Winterfell itself. 

Describing her as someone who shares a pleasure in skinning people like Ramsay is downright biased hatred, unveiled. She is not a sadistic cold hearted son of a _____. She is a female first of all. Arya killed only to survive, from the stable boy in King's Landing to the squire in the Crossroads Inn. The end justifies the means, to an extent only though. I never saw her cross that extreme, unlike Varys and Littlefinger. They are Machiavelli and Chanakya. What is needed, is right for them. Both the last 2 quotes belong to the mentioned immoral political 'greats' respectively (Machiavelli and Chanakya, not the Eunuch and LF) 

Sure, Arya did kill for vengeance. Even you or I would have done the same if we experienced the war in the Riverlands like Arya did. The pointless and mindless brutality and torture by the Tickler and Polliver gave them what they deserved. Raff got it for Lommy in Braavos. Mercy she was called. Fitting. She took no visible pleasure from it though. Only one less name for the Night's prayer. Weese and Chiswyck were not saints either. Arya was right when she named them to Jaqen. The world would be better without such men. Do you remember how Chiswyck narrated the rape which prompted Arya to name him? I shudder to think that such men live. And those men in her prayers who are not yet dead and dead are also deserving candidates only. 

Even in the HOBAW, she retains the humanity and conscience which the FM try to strip off her. She wouldn't have killed the ship insurer if she learnt that he was a good man, which he wasn't.

Her hiding Needle, still saying her prayers, Nymeria wargdreams and that cat incident are proof enough of her identity being held on to by her. Just see my signature about Needle. It was everything to her. She may become a mindless killer and maniac only if she loses whatever she has little left. She ain't mad like Cersei. Hell, she has gone through a lot for her age. Damn it, I'm justifying her mistakes. Though they aren't as bad as Ramsay. 

And the incident of her punching a flour covered Jon (acting as a ghost) as a five year old in the crypts of Winterfell while elder siblings Bran and Sansa were frightened is proof that she is different. 

It is eerily similar to a 5/6 year old Jack Reacher (Lee Child's) pulling out a switchblade when a horror movie was shown to kids at the army camp and filmed as an experiment. Surely you wouldn't call Jack Teacher a sociopath if you knew him, nor would you call Arya one unless you hated her. 

Both Jack reacher and Arya have a lot in common. 

I think ninety-nine of us grow up
to love the campfire, and one
grows up to hate it. Ninety-nine
of us grow up to fear the
howling wolf, and one grows up
to envy it

Reacher's words which fit Arya perfectly. 

In Echo Burning, Reacher narrates how he
first turned "his fear into aggression". He
was about four when he watched a
television show on space adventures. One
episode depicted a space monster which
then terrified the young Reacher. He was
unable to sleep for days, thinking the
monster was under his bed and would get
him if he tried to sleep. According to
Reacher, he then became angry: "Not at
myself for being afraid, because as far as I
was concerned the thing was totally real
and I should be afraid. I got mad at the
thing for making me afraid. For threatening me". Reacher then one night "kind of
exploded with fury". In his words, Reacher
"raced down the monster" and
successfully changed his fear into fury. He
also stated he has never been scared
since.[29]
This fact is later referenced in Never Go
Back, when an Army psychological study
of fear in children is cited that shows
Reacher to have abnormally fast reflexes
and aggression levels at the age of six;
Reacher believes that this abnormal level
of aggression at that age is not due to genetics, as the Army report suggested,
but because he got tired of being
frightened, and trained himself "to turn
fear into aggression, automatically"

See? Also note the similarity in both's attitude to killing those who deserve it. 

Reacher seldom shows remorse for the
numerous felonies he perpetrates and has
a primal sense of justice. In Personal, after
killing a thug, he defends his actions to his
distraught accomplice, Casey Nice, by
stating the man could have spent his life
performing good deeds such as "helping
old ladies across the street", "raising funds
for Africa" or "volunteering in the library". Instead the man extorted money and hurt
people and when he "finally he opened the
wrong door, what came out at him was his
problem, not mine"

More to follow 

This primitivity on part of Reacher is
commented upon in Never Go Back, in
which Reacher is described by Susan
Turner as being like "something feral....It's
like you've been sanded down to nothing
but yes and no, and you and them, and
black and white, and live or die. You're like
a predator. Cold and hard." (p. 176–177)
However, when she witnesses Reacher's outrage at the hurt inflicted upon an
innocent waitress, she reconsiders and
states that he is actually not feral as she
had earlier presumed. Furthermore, she
notes that Reacher had until then
attempted to solve only her problems,
neglecting the problems of his own:

And you've done nothing but
chip away at my problem. You're
ignoring your own, with the Big
Dog. Which is just as serious.
Therefore, you still care for others. Which means you can't
really be feral. I imagine caring
for others is the first thing to go.
And you still know right from
wrong. Which all means you're
OK.

Edited by TheLastWolf

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Saying Arya is like Ramsey isn't quite fair, I'll agree. That said, she's lost the reluctance to harm others at a very young age and is potentially on a very dark path. To say one of the possible ends of that path doesn't end with her being a sociopath or a psychopath isn't unreasonable. She hasn't lost the ability to empathize with people yet, but she definitely has demonstrated violent and disturbing behavior rather consistently.  The Tickler comes to mind for example. 

From a narrative view, I'll agree that's an unlikely end for her. Her theme seems to be that she retains her identity at the core despite all she's suffered. But her mother literally became the worst version of herself so, I guess it's not impossible that Arya would as well. 

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If Arya was a sociopath or psychopath, that would mean nearly every character in the series is as well. She's not killing at random like a serial killer or torturing for pleasure like Ramsay. Like Ned, Jon, Robb, etc, she is killing to stay alive or because the person is a criminal. Even with the insurance salesman, she had to find a reason he deserved to die which was that he was cheating widows and orphans out of the money they were owed. The death penalty is the norm for Westerosi culture, as is death in war. She's absolutely retaining her identity and holding onto the values Ned instilled in her is part of that.

Regarding the Ghost!Jon scene, Arya is older than Bran and thought she was protecting "the baby" lol I do sometimes wonder if that scene was foreshadowing Arya having to face wight!Jon.

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Posted (edited)
45 minutes ago, TheLastWolf said:

Her hiding Needle, still saying her prayers, Nymeria wargdreams and that cat incident are proof enough of her identity being held on to by her. Just see my signature about Needle.

Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan's stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow's smile. The Many-Faced God can have the rest, but he can't have this.

Needle was Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and her father, even Sansa. Needle was Winterfell's grey walls, and the laughter of its people. Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan's stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow's smile.[7]

22 minutes ago, Lord Lannister said:

Saying Arya is like Ramsey isn't quite fair, I'll agree

Thanks 

22 minutes ago, Lord Lannister said:

That said, she's lost the reluctance to harm others at a very young age and is potentially on a very dark path. To say one of the possible ends of that path doesn't end with her being a sociopath or a psychopath isn't unreasonable. She hasn't lost the ability to empathize with people yet, but she definitely has demonstrated violent and disturbing behavior rather consistently.  The Tickler comes to mind for example. 

But there are a countless other incidents of her being kind etc. 

Edited by TheLastWolf

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11 minutes ago, TheLastWolf said:

Thanks 

But there are a countless other incidents of her being kind etc. 

There are. I did say she hasn't lost the ability to show empathy towards others in that quote. She isn't murdering people for gits and shiggles, much less torturing them, but she's got problems that have a very real possibility of getting worse. Possibility doesn't mean definitely, as I said I think the whole point of her narrative so far is that despite the attacks on her identity she remains herself at the core. I think that extends to her not becoming someone like Ramsay. 

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Arya is something of a child soldier.   The problem with the analogy is that she's also her own commander.  Unlike Jack Reacher, Arya is a magical character, able to take on the memories and faces of the dead.  It's sometimes difficult to discern what are Arya's thoughts from those of the people whose beings she's commandeered.   There is never any ambiguity in Reacher's thoughts or motives.  It's a weird comparison.  Almost as weird as the comparison between Ramsay & Arya.  

Arya is a fierce child, brave and absolutely loyal.  She's got a name on her kill list because someone stole her friend's bull helm.   On the surface this is easy to discount as frivolous or proof of Arya's blood lust.   Gendry's helm was the sum of his work and study.  It was as much him as his blue eyes and dark hair.  She is outraged at this theft of what amounted to the only real thing Gendry had, not unlike her own Needle.  Is this a reason to kill someone?  No, not for wiser grown ups who understand that the helm was not Gendry.  Few instances within Arya's story illustrate the extent of Arya's loyalty as well as this one reason for a name on her list.   Is Arya confused?  No.  She's a little girl with a fearless bent who has been ripped from her life as a Stark.  She's still working out who she is while trying to convince her bosses that she is no one.   How calm, secure or loved can that actually make a little girl?

Give the kid a break already.  True we have seen this child pull off some truly brutal killings.  We have also seen her learn the truth of mercy when merited.  Like any child, Arya will absorb lessons in the attention from anyone with power over her.  See Jaqen.  See The Hound.   See Ned.  See the Kindly Man.  See Brusco's Daughters.  Arya has been through hell Ramsay couldn't imagine or survive without the benefit of training, big guns and contacts Jack gets in every book.  

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Posted (edited)

Arya Stark will more likely become more like Ramsay Bolton as time goes on.  She will remain a Stark because they are a pack, similar to a wolf pack.  But yeah, she is getting darker and sicker.  A lot like Little Walder.  Maybe Big Walder will be Arya's final adversary.  He was the person who took out Little Walder as the bigger lad was becoming more like Ramsay.  He might have to do the same (or try to) to Arya Stark.

Edited by Widowmaker 811

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I have never seen Arya as, what's the phrase? Some kind of "super ninja assassin-kill-machine"? Her kills are rare and quick, merciful, and can easily be justified, either in terms of self defence or the laws of the time. As has been noted, she never takes pleasure in any of them. Indeed, she sometimes broods whether her mother would accept her, should she find out. Even after Lady Catelyn is dead, Arya still ponders whether what she did was right or justified.

Contrast this with Ramsey Snow/Bolton, or even Gregor Clegane, who both enjoyed torturing or watching torture. Both used crude, cruel means, not requiring anything like intelligence. There is zero comparison with Arya, and no, she isn't headed in that direction.

Comparing her to child soldiers, as Curled Finger does, is apt. Arya has literally fought a battle: remember Amory Lorch's pack of rats? She's watched day after day of others being tortured, and come away hating the torturers, not wanting to be like them. She's led her little band of boys older than herself, and gone back to rescue some of them when they've gotten into trouble, at great risk to herself. She even ran into the burning barn to give the monsters from the black cells a chance to escape.

There's been a lot of condemnation of Arya's apprenticeship with the Faceless Men, insisting that it's turning her into a mere kill monster, and lots of unfounded sympathy for the insurance fraudster. But note! It took Arya days of observation, pondering, trying to figure out WHY the man had been assigned to her for death, before she actually did anything or came up with a plan. I think this was actually a test by the Kindly Man. Was Arya just a thug who would slaughter anybody on command? Clearly not, and she passed the test. Only after learning about how the man had defaulted one too many insurance contracts and how women and their children were harmed by this, was she able to come up with a plan, and it was clever, bloodless, affected only the designated victim, and did not reveal herself as the killer. Moreover, she did not stay around to watch and gloat.

Observe also that her unauthorized execution of that oath-breaking Night's Watchman caused a mild reprimand from the Kindly Man - and they promoted her to the next stage of training! Almost as if they approved of her sense of justice. We shall see what happens when the Kindly Man learns of the death of Raff the Sweetling.

On the other hand, I know nothing about this "Jack Reacher" guy, but I don't think I like him anywhere as much as I do Arya.

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@TheLastWolf

Your description of Arya as simply different from other children is being too easy and too forgiving of her.  That is my opinion.  She is more disturbed and damaged in reality.  An example of someone who is different from his peers is Samwell Tarly.  Arya is a much, much darker person.  She is not just a kid who is lost.  Arya taunted Sweetling while the guy was bleeding to death.  That was sick pleasure she took.  

 

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Nothing compared to Ramsay, but Arya is losing her sense of right and wrong. She is a child who was affected by all violence around her, and over the years this became more and more normal for her, she feels little or almost no remorse for the people she kills and the tendency is to get worse with each death. I wouldn't call it sociopathy yet.

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, zandru said:

I have never seen Arya as, what's the phrase? Some kind of "super ninja assassin-kill-machine"? Her kills are rare and quick, merciful, and can easily be justified, either in terms of self defence or the laws of the time. As has been noted, she never takes pleasure in any of them. Indeed, she sometimes broods whether her mother would accept her, should she find out. Even after Lady Catelyn is dead, Arya still ponders whether what she did was right or justified.

Contrast this with Ramsey Snow/Bolton, or even Gregor Clegane, who both enjoyed torturing or watching torture. Both used crude, cruel means, not requiring anything like intelligence. There is zero comparison with Arya, and no, she isn't headed in that direction.

On the other hand, I know nothing about this "Jack Reacher" guy, but I don't think I like him anywhere as much as I do Arya.

Amen.  There is no cruelty in Arya's (or Reacher's) actions.  There is a reason for each action.  

Jack Reacher is fun.  Knock'em down,  shoot, kill, explode action adventure fun.  Nothing at all like ASOIAF.  

Forgot point of reply outside of rousing Hell Yes!  Reacher is a retired military cop.  That was where I drew my conclusions about Arya being something of a child soldier.   

Edited by Curled Finger
Gads

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Only 89 selfies today said:

Arya taunted Sweetling while the guy was bleeding to death.  That was sick pleasure she took.  

You think she "took pleasure"? I see it more as quiet satisfaction that a vicious criminal - remember, Raff was one of Ser Gregor's rats, and after that, a Brave Companion - was finally getting justice. And no, she did nothing to prolong his dying or inflict further suffering. If you've ever been sliced by a very sharp blade (say, in the kitchen), you will know that you barely feel it for some time. Raff would bleed out quickly and experience none of the agony he'd routinely inflicted on others, including children and women.

No, I don't see Arya as "getting darker." She's getting a deeper understanding of justice beyond her initial simple desires for revenge, better control of her emotions, and more skill, and not just in killing. Arya is integrating into families (helping sell oysters), troupes (the mummers), and becoming known in various guises among people and shops on the street. She's socializing, becoming even more sympathetic to people who work for a living.

In many ways, this parallels young Egg, the Aegon IV to be.

Re: Jack Reacher - Interesting. I'm currently into Cormoran Strike, another former soldier who's now a private detective. Next book due to come out in September!!

Edited by zandru

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1 hour ago, Only 89 selfies today said:

@TheLastWolf

Your description of Arya as simply different from other children is being too easy and too forgiving of her.  That is my opinion.  She is more disturbed and damaged in reality.  An example of someone who is different from his peers is Samwell Tarly.  Arya is a much, much darker person.  She is not just a kid who is lost.  Arya taunted Sweetling while the guy was bleeding to death.  That was sick pleasure she took.  

 

It was also not her place to murder Dareon the singer.  Nothing good came from killing Dareon.  The faceless creeps have no right to execute the old insurance agent even if the allegations of fraud are true.  The old man had done no harm to Arya.  She did it to pass the test to continue her studies at the school of death. 

8 hours ago, TheLastWolf said:

I've seen as lot of comments and replies about Arya's mental health by a lot of obvious Stark haters, or at least, those who support other factions.

I can only speak for myself and how I feel about Arya.  I dislike Arya but I am not a hater. It is difficult to know how her story will end but it does not look good at the moment.  The Ghost of HH was greatly disturbed upon seeing Arya.  I do not think the old lady would have been so unsettled if Arya's victims are only Freys, Boltons, and other baddies.  She has already killed two who did not deserve it.  Dareon and the insurance man. 

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It was also not her place to murder Dareon the singer.  Nothing good came from killing Dareon. 

Executing Dareon was about Arya's cultural values. She has been taught that there are no men more dangerous than Night's Watch deserters since their lives are forfeit. We might not agree that he deserved to die, but I also don't agree that the deserter Ned began the book executing deserved death either. But we're from completely different backgrounds than these characters. Ned, Jon, Robb, and everyone in the North would agree with her actions.

Quote

The faceless creeps have no right to execute the old insurance agent even if the allegations of fraud are true.  The old man had done no harm to Arya.  She did it to pass the test to continue her studies at the school of death.

In the chapter where she's given the assignment and fulfills it, Arya clearly puts a lot of thought into judging whether this man deserves to die, even trying to speculate that his paranoia would make him welcome death. What puts her over the edge into agreeing to kill him though is the fact that he cheats widows. This isn't just about continuing her studies. If it was, there are multiple other choices she would have made differently.

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4 hours ago, Quoth the raven, said:

She has already killed two who did not deserve it.  Dareon and the insurance man. 

@Wintersshewolf already has pointed it out, but still...

She judged the insurance man carefully and then only gave the gift.. Read it again if you want, he did deserve it.

Dareon.... Well, why would you sympathize with a deserter from the Night's Watch? With the Others looming as a perpetual danger, deserters deserve more than the quick merciful death given by Arya. 

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5 hours ago, zandru said:

Re: Jack Reacher - Interesting. I'm currently into Cormoran Strike, another former soldier who's now a private detective. Next book due to come out in September!!

Richard Galbraith, right? J. K Rowling's pseudonym,IIRC. I love him too and want to see him get together with his former secretary and now partner Robin. 

7 hours ago, zandru said:

On the other hand, I know nothing about this "Jack Reacher" guy, but I don't think I like him anywhere as much as I do Arya.

Read Lee Child. Reacher is badass. You will like him nearly as much as Arya if you do. 

10 hours ago, Widowmaker 811 said:

Arya Stark will more likely become more like Ramsay Bolton as time goes on.  She will remain a Stark because they are a pack, similar to a wolf pack.  But yeah, she is getting darker and sicker.  A lot like Little Walder.  Maybe Big Walder will be Arya's final adversary.  He was the person who took out Little Walder as the bigger lad was becoming more like Ramsay.  He might have to do the same (or try to) to Arya Stark.

Interesting. But this belongs in my other thread. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, zandru said:

You think she "took pleasure"? I see it more as quiet satisfaction that a vicious criminal - remember, Raff was one of Ser Gregor's rats, and after that, a Brave Companion - was finally getting justice. And no, she did nothing to prolong his dying or inflict further suffering. If you've ever been sliced by a very sharp blade (say, in the kitchen), you will know that you barely feel it for some time. Raff would bleed out quickly and experience none of the agony he'd routinely inflicted on others, including children and women.

No, I don't see Arya as "getting darker." She's getting a deeper understanding of justice beyond her initial simple desires for revenge, better control of her emotions, and more skill, and not just in killing. Arya is integrating into families (helping sell oysters), troupes (the mummers), and becoming known in various guises among people and shops on the street. She's socializing, becoming even more sympathetic to people who work for a living.

In many ways, this parallels young Egg, the Aegon IV to be.

Re: Jack Reacher - Interesting. I'm currently into Cormoran Strike, another former soldier who's now a private detective. Next book due to come out in September!!

I think she is getting darker.  She is getting to the point of being quite willing to kill people who are not a threat to her, which is troubling, given that she is an 11 year old child.  Fortunately, she has a strong moral compass and cares about the welfare of others.  This will help her keep from falling over the edge.   It also means she would be a lousy assassin.

I think Insurance Man was a test to see if she was willing to kill him.  The pressure needed probably gave them some pause.  Raff won't help matters.  They know he is on her list, thus it is personal. 

By the way, we don't know why Insurance Man was killed.  They let her conclude that he was a fraudster, but they did not say so directly.  Given that they prize the ability to lie, I don't trust them.  I accept that they tell the literal truth,, nothing more.

I find Dareon to be her worst act.  I think she killed him because she disliked him for his betrayal of Sam. who she liked, and by extension her brother, and his arrogance about it.  The fact that he was a deserter was a hook to justify it, in my opinion, and not the main reason. 

However, I expect that, in the end, she will be OK, but it will be a rough journey.  She won't become another Ramsay, and couldn't if she tried.  That kind of nastiness and sadism simply isn't in her nature.

Edited by Nevets

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7 hours ago, Nevets said:

I think she is getting darker. 

Evidence? And why in the world would "being a threat to her" AND HER ALONE be necessary? I totally reject this logic.

Justice doesn't consist solely of judging people who have hurt YOU. By that logic, if you saw a man killing a small child, it would be just fine, since you were safe and happy. When Arya executed Dareon, it was because (1) he broke his vows, (2) he abandoned Sam and the others.

Dareon was the sole source of income, as it turned out, that would enable old Maester Aemon to get medicine and travel to Oldtown. Dareon's singing was supposed to encourage others to join the Watch, and incidentally, make up for the funding shortfall that resulted from Dareon's booking the priciest room and Maester Aemon's sickness. Although Arya didn't know all of this, she overheard what Samwell told him.

Then there was standard Westerosi justice.

I'm constantly amazed by the number of folks who defend, to their last breath, insurance fraud. Mayhap we've got a lot of agents here in the forum? ;-)

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18 hours ago, zandru said:

I think this was actually a test by the Kindly Man. Was Arya just a thug who would slaughter anybody on command? Clearly not, and she passed the test. Only after learning about how the man had defaulted one too many insurance contracts and how women and their children were harmed by this, was she able to come up with a plan, and it was clever, bloodless, affected only the designated victim, and did not reveal herself as the killer. Moreover, she did not stay around to watch and gloat.

The faceless men are the best liars in the world - Arya shouldn't have trusted what they said about the insurance man. There other possible reasons for killing him - maybe his wife wanted to marry someone else, his son-in-law wanted to inherit, someone who made a false claim feared being caught.... Whatever. If there was a test, Arya failed.

Her method should have scored her a fail too. She put a poisoned gold coin into general circulation - how many people are going to bite it?

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