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[spoilers]Inside Winterfell DWD WOW - Northern Conspiracy

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Posted (edited)

A lot of us have been trying to unpick the clues about what has actually been going on in the North leading up to the battle with Stannis. I have seen a few versions of the Northern conspiracy and there is no doubt that something is going on under the surface there it is just difficult to figure out exactly who is fighting for what. The puzzle is complicated by the fact that Several characters are likely loyal to Roose but hate Ramsay.

My question is, does anyone in the North, other than Theon, Wex, and the Winterfell prisoners at the Dreadfort actually know that it was Ramsay and not the Ironborn who slaughtered everyone and burned the castle? Also, are there any witnesses remaining who know that Roose basically planned the Red Wedding? How likely is it that Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover have managed to inform the others of Robb's will? Finally, how much is the Frey infighting part of this? As they try to get each other killed so they can get the Twins, surely some Freys will be advancing opposing agendas.

I am confused about the current state of awareness the conspirators have about what actually occurred, how much we can be certain of, how much is speculation, and does any of what will take place depend on if Davos has returned with Rickon?

Edited by Hippocras

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6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

The puzzle is complicated by the fact that Several characters are likely loyal to Roose but hate Ramsay.

Like whom?

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

My question is, does anyone in the North, other than Theon, Wex, and the Winterfell prisoners at the Dreadfort actually know that it was Ramsay and not the Ironborn who slaughtered everyone and burned the castle?

Big Walder

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Also, are there any witnesses remaining who know that Roose basically planned the Red Wedding?

Maybe Walders got hard info. But all prisoners of the RW knows he conspired and everyone else alive can take a good guess

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

How likely is it that Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover have managed to inform the others of Robb's will?

Define others. Some others? Likely.

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Finally, how much is the Frey infighting part of this? As they try to get each other killed so they can get the Twins, surely some Freys will be advancing opposing agendas.

Surley

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

am confused about the current state of awareness the conspirators have about what actually occurred, how much we can be certain of, how much is speculation,

Its confusing

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

does any of what will take place depend on if Davos has returned with Rickon?

No

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I would start by responding to a couple of your last questions: what is certain and how much is speculation? My response would be that we may have to begin by speculating but that might lead us to some more concrete clues that could lead to greater certainty.

My bets are on Lord Manderly and Lady Dustin as the most likely to know / suspect that Ramsay is the bad guy at Winterfell. Barbrey Dustin already disliked Ramsay because he killed her nephew (Roose's legitimate son). If intelligence has reached Lord Wyman about the nature of the capture of Wylis Manderly, he will see the likely betrayal by Roose Bolton while the army was fording the river confirmed by the subsequent betrayal of Robb Stark at the Red Wedding. Lord Wyman also has direct intelligence from Wex Pyke (although the details may be sketchy due to Wex's communication limitations). 

Lady Dustin has been exploring Winterfell and she has a very astute ability to pick up on details. She knows that Jeyne Poole is weeping - does she also know that Jeyne is not Arya? 

We know that Littlefinger, Cersei and Varys use networks of servant-spies to gather intelligence in the Red Keep and King's Landing. It would not surprise me at all if Lady Dustin and Lord Manderly also use servants to gather intelligence at Winterfell. If your handmaid talks to a cook, you can pick up all kinds of background information about what Theon did and what happened to bring about the rise of Ramsay Bolton. 

The gift of colts to Little and Big Walder tells me that Lady Dustin is already working a Frey angle of some kind. Her therapy session with Theon, helping him shed his Reek identity and reclaim his Theon identity, is another major move on her part. Maybe she has even communicated with the washerwomen who help Jeyne and Theon to escape.

I am not sure whether Lady Dustin is taking a "Team Bran" approach but we know that she loved the other Brandon Stark (the uncle). Her work to rehabilitate Theon makes me think that she is casting some Bran Magic (for lack of a better term) due to the apparent connection between Theon and Bran at the gods' wood. 

Wyman Manderly, on the other hand, appears to be working the "Team Rickon" angle with his mission for Davos in Skagos. 

An interesting contrast in Lady Dustin / Lord Manderly symbols: Manderly is too fat to sit a horse; as a Ryswell, Lady Dustin has a strong horse connection. 

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Obviously, the 600 guards of the Deadford that followed Ramsay's command's are also in the know. And 600 men are just too many to keep such a secret. And it's impossible that no one out of the few thousands of men that formed the Northern army managed to flee. So I'm sure that by now every lord in the North knows that Ramsay was the one who sacked Winterfell.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Hugorfonics said:

Like whom?

House Redfort, for example, where Domeric was fostered. They have ties to the Boltons clearly, but would not look kindly on Ramsay. I have no doubt at at all that the Vale will soon be involed in the North (probably are already).

16 hours ago, Hugorfonics said:

Big Walder

Quite the hinge character really isn't he? If you look at the Frey family tree, his branch seems possibly to have not been involved with the Red Wedding. If that turns out to be the case, he may see Northern revenge as his ticket to Lordship, as they kill off everyone ahead of him in the succession. We know he fully intends to become Lord of the Twins as he outright said so. We also know there are other branches of Freys who did not support the Red Wedding, such as those connected to house Rosby and Roslin. So Northern revenge is not likely to be as simply as a full slaughter of all Freys: Some may be co-conspirators.

The Freys connected to House Waynwood are ones to watch IMO. We don't know much about them, but the network of Vale-Riverlands-North connections is complex and no doubt a factor in what is about to take place.

Edited by Hippocras
Added Waynwood link

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Hugorfonics said:

No

Why so certain? Rickon is a complication at the very least for any clear solution to Northern hierarchy. If the Northern conspiracy is aimed at making Jon king as many versions of the theory claim, that means Rickon is either disinherited or dead. So certainty means you believe the Northmen intend to either kill Rickon, betray him, or take away his inheritance ensuring that in future he could likely fight to win it back. 

But if they restore Rickon as lord Stark they are dealing with a child overlord and therefore years of power struggle and infighting to influence him. Roose already commented on the problem of a boy Lord in discussing his own future child. So I very much doubt this is their plan.

Edited by Hippocras
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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Hippocras said:

House Redfort, for example, where Domeric was fostered. They have ties to the Boltons clearly, but would not look kindly on Ramsay. I have no doubt at at all that the Vale will soon be involed in the North (probably are already

True, although iirc there are multiple and competitive branches to Redford, so those not with ties to Dustin may side with her competitor.

The Vale owes no loyalty to Roose and since he got promoted after the RW a Sansa backed Vale will not look at Bolton as a friend. Especially now that they lost "Arya"

8 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Quite the hinge character really isn't he? If you look at the Frey family tree, his branch seems possibly to have not been involved with the Red Wedding. If that turns out to be the case, he may see Northern revenge as his ticket to Lordship, as they kill off everyone ahead of him in the succession. We know he fully intends to become Lord of the Twins as he outright said so

I also fully expect him to become lord of Twins, but hes becoming a Ramsay jr these days so I dont expect him to rally the pro Stark faction of Frey

Eta. I do think it probable that he'll ally with the pro Stark faction or at least indirectly help by labeling Ramsay as the sacker

8 hours ago, Hippocras said:

also know there are other branches of Freys who did not support the Red Wedding, such as those connected to house Rosby and Roslin. So Northern revenge is not likely to be as simply as a full slaughter of all Freys: Some may be co-conspirators.

I agree that this branch will probably be the pro Stark faction

8 hours ago, Hippocras said:

The Freys connected to House Waynwood are ones to watch IMO. We don't know much about them, but the network of Vale-Riverlands-North connections is complex and no doubt a factor in what is about to take place.

Yea, maybe

7 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Why so certain? Rickon is a complication at the very least for any clear solution to Northern hierarchy. If the Northern conspiracy is aimed at making Jon king as many versions of the theory claim, that means Rickon is either disinherited or dead. So certainty means you believe the Northmen intend to either kill Rickon, betray him, or take away his inheritance ensuring that in future he could likely fight to win it back. 

But if they restore Rickon as lord Stark they are dealing with a child overlord and therefore years of power struggle and infighting to influence him. Roose already commented on the problem of a boy Lord in discussing his own future child. So I very much doubt this is their plan.

I think Wyman left Davos knowing they wont meet again, and when he left White Harbor I dont expect he expected to ever come back. Dudes brazen with a capital B. Wyman imo is strictly an anti Bolton kinda guy and will pull any thread available.

Rickons useful because shaggydog will combat Jeynes brown eyes in the game of recruitment but Jeynes gone now and if Wyman or any other anti Bolton faction gets her then shes practically just as good as Rickon

When Rickon does return I think its very possible that both puppet masters, Stannis and Wyman, will be dead.

Speaking of dead guys, I dont see much of a Jon faction. A few trident lords may want it and Reed if the letter got that far, but Jons a crow and not allowed to inherit, and hes kinda deadish. Also Brynden and possibly Edmure will try to hinder the Jon faction because of Catelyns feelings.

Imo Robbs will will mainly play a part by disenfranchising Sansa and thus another obstacle for the incoming queen

Edited by Hugorfonics

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Hugorfonics said:

True, although iirc there are multiple and competitive branches to Redford, so those not with ties to Dustin may side with her competitor.

The Vale owes no loyalty to Roose and since he got promoted after the RW a Sansa backed Vale will not look at Bolton as a friend. Especially now that they lost "Arya"

The Vale owed no loyalty in particular to the Starks either. Yes, Roose got promoted after the red wedding, but the Vale has stronger marriage ties to house Frey than to the North. Lord Walder's wife was a Royce, and his sons married Waynwoods etc.

I do not remember anything about competitive branches of Redforts? Are you thinking of the Corbrays?

Edited by Hippocras

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Hugorfonics said:

True, although iirc there are multiple and competitive branches to Redford, so those not with ties to Dustin may side with her competitor.

The Vale owes no loyalty to Roose and since he got promoted after the RW a Sansa backed Vale will not look at Bolton as a friend. Especially now that they lost "Arya"

I also fully expect him to become lord of Twins, but hes becoming a Ramsay jr these days so I dont expect him to rally the pro Stark faction of Frey

Eta. I do think it probable that he'll ally with the pro Stark faction or at least indirectly help by labeling Ramsay as the sacker

I agree that this branch will probably be the pro Stark faction

Yea, maybe

I think Wyman left Davos knowing they wont meet again, and when he left White Harbor I dont expect he expected to ever come back. Dudes brazen with a capital B. Wyman imo is strictly an anti Bolton kinda guy and will pull any thread available.

Rickons useful because shaggydog will combat Jeynes brown eyes in the game of recruitment but Jeynes gone now and if Wyman or any other anti Bolton faction gets her then shes practically just as good as Rickon

When Rickon does return I think its very possible that both puppet masters, Stannis and Wyman, will be dead.

Speaking of dead guys, I dont see much of a Jon faction. A few trident lords may want it and Reed if the letter got that far, but Jons a crow and not allowed to inherit, and hes kinda deadish. Also Brynden and possibly Edmure will try to hinder the Jon faction because of Catelyns feelings.

Imo Robbs will will mainly play a part by disenfranchising Sansa and thus another obstacle for the incoming queen

I'm trying to figure out your logic here, but not quite there.

Jeyne is just as good as Rickon only to the family she married into as Arya. In other words the Boltons need her, but the rest of them do not. Anyway Rickon is ahead of Arya in the succession, so his existence makes "Arya" second best. Furthermore, many Houses clearly have available daughters, older than Rickon but young enough to marry him a la Tommen, giving that House control of the North.

This whole thing is a story of rivalries, not just revenge. There is no such thing as a united North, or a united Vale. They will act as families engaged in long term power struggles, not regional blocks. And within that are a few characters with big question marks.

 

Big Walder

Little Walder was the one who was becoming Ramsay 2.0. Big Walder is conniving, much like a mini Roose or like his close relation Lothar. Furthermore, as I said, there is no sign his Blackwood/Paege branch of the Frey family tree was involved in the Red Wedding. At least, there is no mention of Jamos or Big Walder's brothers. So the fact that he was hanging out at the Dreadfort and not getting on Ramsay's bad side does not actually tell us much at all about what his plans are and what he might do. I mean, who WOULD get on Ramsay's bad side? Surely it was clear to anyone that would be a thing best avoided. And Big Walder did not choose his situation of being taken to the Dreadfort, he just happened to be at Winterfell when everything went down. So he could just as easily be a SPY cosying up to Ramsay as on that side of the equation.

Yes, he wrote the letter saying it was Theon who burned Winterfell - this would have helped win Ramsay's trust, but also ensured that the Northmen did not turn on the Boltons. So maybe he knew what would come but maybe he did not. 

Finally, we have his relationship with lady Dustin. She likes him. Bran noticed he was a good rider earlier. So if Lady Dustin is part of a conspiracy and not just pro-Roose as she claims, it does seem at least possible that Big Walder is part of it too, and is serving as their window on Ramsay.

 

Lady Dustin

There is an assumption she is against Roose: She might be, probably is considering the Red Wedding. But she is also a schemer, and if she is just positioning herself in a power vacuum I don't think we can be entirely sure that she is not in fact supporting Roose while simply being against Ramsay. Her relationship to the Boltons was via her sister's marriage and that sister's now dead son Domeric. After Domeric's death she has no direct ties, but may still have developed a strong relationship during the time her sister was married. We just don't know. But Roose is a smart guy and he seems to believe her support is genuine in spite of the Red Wedding. There must be some reason for his faith.

It seems possible that House Ryswell is the reason Domeric was a squire in the Vale. He had two parents, and either one of those parents could be the source of the ties to House Redfort. I count her as a significant wild card with good arguments for and against her being on the same "page" in her plans as Manderly.

 

Lord Manderly himself

With the information we have thus far Manderly does seem to outright support a revolt against BOTH Boltons, not just Ramsay and the Freys. Certainly the fight over Hornwood strongly supports that conclusion. However I don't know how much I trust him either. Based on geography and subtle moments in the books as well, White Harbour could prove to have a link to far less benevolent players. It is the main harbour link to the Fingers, Gulltown and King's Landing - all places where Littlefinger holds significant sway. It is even a primary source of silver coin for all of the Seven Kingdoms, meaning as master of coin Littlefinger had significant interests there and placed his people. Meanwhile other small moments suggest possible Manderly links to Varys or even the Dorne-Tyrosh conspiracy.

Finally, the dominance of the Seven in White Harbour, as opposed to the Old Gods, could well indicate rather different views and alliances between Manderly versus Umber or Ryswell. A tantilizing hint in this regard is "starfish soup". Starfish could indicate an actual starfish sigil (Ruthermont?), but is more likely just a star of some kind. And as it happens, the Faith Millitant is covered in stars and gaining prominence in the story, while also several Houses, particularly in the Vale, have star themed sigils: House Templeton for example. 

The way I see it, the only possible way that the Northmen could be working together in a grand consipracy to a common end is if they are in full agreement as to what is the best end. I am not sure that the clues point to such solid agreement. The houses with eligible young daughters such as Manderly could very well want to seat Lord Rickon. But it is hard to see House Umber being enthused about a boy overlord - we would do well to remember how the Greatjon challenged Robb when he saw him as too young and green.

 

Littlefinger

He is hiding in the Vale, with his fingers in all pots, but his more open involvement in the North is imminent. Many theories on Sansa's fate have her going back South, or tying herself to Aegon etc. But Littlefinger knows that Sansa is nothing to anyone if she does not regain her claims. If Starks have disappeared from Winterfell, Sansa's status has evaporated as well. So she will not marry Aegon before regaining her status in the North.

Given the Vale ties to Freys and Boltons, involvement in the North seems certain to come in the form of support for the Boltons, not the Northern rebels (at least at first). Also, clearly for Littlefinger, Rickon being alive and well is intolerable. Nothing must get in the way of Sansa gaining power in the North (and therefore, in his dreams, himself).

Edited by Hippocras
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8 hours ago, Hippocras said:

The Vale owed no loyalty in particular to the Starks either. Yes, Roose got promoted after the red wedding, but the Vale has stronger marriage ties to house Frey than to the North. Lord Walder's wife was a Royce, and his sons married Waynwoods etc.

Gotcha

8 hours ago, Hippocras said:

I do not remember anything about competitive branches of Redforts? Are you thinking of the Corbrays?

Ahh. Excuse me. Thanks.

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Jeyne is just as good as Rickon only to the family she married into as Arya. In other words the Boltons need her, but the rest of them do not

Hmm, no, I believe Id take the opposite approach. Arya is the Tommon sanctioned lady of winterfell, therefore wherever she ends up will be a rallying force as the legal boss of Winterfell. 

Its like Robbs logic, Ramsay is married like Joff was king, but if you kill him then the logic gets simpler and anyone can marry Jeyne thusly becoming the lord of winterfell. 

Or to anyone thinking outside the box, Jeynes obviously traumatized by all the torture and rape and it wouldnt be too hard to declare the marriage void because it was made at sword point.

 

Ramsay, separated from his wife, on the other hand signs his name Trueborn Heir of Winterfell, so a missing Jeyne isnt going to destroy his title.

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Anyway Rickon is ahead of Arya in the succession, so his existence makes "Arya" second best. Furthermore, many Houses clearly have available daughters, older than Rickon but young enough to marry him a la Tommen, giving that House control of the North

Thats true, but laws of succession arent that firm and Rickon is mad young so I dont see the entire north, let alone KL, acknowledging the rebels lord. Some undoubtedly will however.

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

This whole thing is a story of rivalries, not just revenge. There is no such thing as a united North, or a united Vale. They will act as families engaged in long term power struggles, not regional blocks. And within that are a few characters with big question marks

100% agree

 

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Big Walder

Little Walder was the one who was becoming Ramsay 2.0. Big Walder is conniving, much like a mini Roose. Furthermore, as I said, there is no sign his Blackwood branch of the Frey family tree was involved in the Red Wedding. So the fact that he was hanging out at the Dreadfort and not getting on Ramsay's bad side does not actually tell us much at all about what his plans are and what he might do. I mean, who WOULD get on Ramsay's bad side? Surely it was clear to anyone that would be a thing best avoided. And Big Walder did not choose his situation of being taken to the Dreadfort, he just happened to be at Winterfell when everything went down. So he could just as easily be a SPY cosying up to Ramsay as on that side of the equation.

Yes, he wrote the letter saying it was Theon who burned Winterfell - this would have helped win Ramsay's trust, but also ensured that the Northmen did not turn on the Boltons. So maybe he knew what would come but maybe he did not. 

Finally, we have his relationship with lady Dustin. She likes him. Bran noticed he was a good rider earlier. So if Lady Dustin is part of a conspiracy and not just pro-Roose as she claims, it does seem at least possible that Big Walder is part of it too, and is serving as their window on Ramsay.

Interesting. 

The letter was a real Sansa/Cersei like letter, proof read and all that. I do agree though that Big was way more cool and composed then Sansa was, and probably mentions Little unlike Arya lol. 

Theres a good chance that Big has some, idk if mentor the right word, but some kinda pull at the Twins and was told to keep an eye on the Starks and stay smart. Perhaps Late Walder himself.

Bigs connection with Dustin is interesting however I believe this brings up Jr. (You were totally right though, Big was not Ramsay new) Big killed him, right? Wack a Frey, maybe a Manderly in the process, get the Freys to march to death against Stannis, fuck the war and the north, all that matters is Bigs the last man standing. Honestly, the tyrant murderous king he is, Stannis would not execute a prisoner child. (Dont bring up Edric lol)

But Lady Dustins not fuck the north. Shes really invested in this battle and there is a possibility a Stannis victory would mean her execution. 

So if shes feeding him hes not feeding her.

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Lady Dustin

There is an assumption she is against Roose: She might be, probably is considering the Red Wedding. But she is also a schemer, and if she is just positioning herself in a power vacuum I don't think we can be entirely sure that she is not in fact supporting Roose while simply being against Ramsay. Her relationship to the Boltons was via her sister's marriage and that sister's now dead son Domeric. After Domeric's death she has no direct ties, but may still have developed a strong relationship during the time her sister was married. We just don't know. But Roose is a smart guy and he seems to believe her support is genuine in spite of the Red Wedding. There must be some reason for his faith.

It seems possible that House Ryswell is the reason Domeric was a squire in the Vale. He had two parents, and either one of those parents could be the source of the ties to House Redfort. I count her as a significant wild card with good arguments for and against her being on the same "page" in her plans as Manderly.

Word. I dont think Roose has anything over her and is mindful, he does have the whole anti Stark thing going which to seems to excite Dustin so theres a form of cooperation there. 

Im sure the RW rubbed her the wrong way, though publicly she can just bash Frey, however there is one thing thats bound to rub her more then the wrong way. Lord Ramsay. A strong possibility and likelihood.

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

The houses with eligible young daughters such as Manderly could very well want to seat Lord Rickon. But it is hard to see House Umber being enthused about a boy overlord - we would do well to remember how the Greatjon challenged Robb when he saw him as too young and green

For sure, but you have to try.

Wyman needed to hold his cards and get back in Cerseis grace, and then the rebel smuggled himself in. Like Wyman said, win win. And when Davos asked what if... Wyman woulda killed him.

This plan should not work. Smuggle into hell, kidnap a prince accompanied by a direwolf and a spearwife. Ima bet against. (Although, of course not)

I dont really see Wymans colluding with Petyrs agents.

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

or tying herself to Aegon

silly

6 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Given the Vale ties to Freys and Boltons, involvement in the North seems certain to come in the form of support for the Boltons, not the Northern rebels (at least at first). Also, clearly for Littlefinger, Rickon being alive and well is intolerable. Nothing must get in the way of Sansa gaining power in the North (and therefore, in his dreams, himself

A Sansa Stark is almost as dangerous as a Jeyne, but like we said less then a Rickon. And Shaggydog. I think the lack of Lady and just some random brunette dressing in white will hurt her cause, toppled with Robbs will.

But not in the Vale, there they follow Harry and theyll follow him into some icy hell thats known as the northern theater. 

Itll be fun

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3 hours ago, Hugorfonics said:

Hmm, no, I believe Id take the opposite approach. Arya is the Tommon sanctioned lady of winterfell, therefore wherever she ends up will be a rallying force as the legal boss of Winterfell. 

Its like Robbs logic, Ramsay is married like Joff was king, but if you kill him then the logic gets simpler and anyone can marry Jeyne thusly becoming the lord of winterfell. 

Or to anyone thinking outside the box, Jeynes obviously traumatized by all the torture and rape and it wouldnt be too hard to declare the marriage void because it was made at sword point.

Ramsay, separated from his wife, on the other hand signs his name Trueborn Heir of Winterfell, so a missing Jeyne isnt going to destroy his title.

Thats true, but laws of succession arent that firm and Rickon is mad young so I dont see the entire north, let alone KL, acknowledging the rebels lord. Some undoubtedly will however.

 

This plan should not work. Smuggle into hell, kidnap a prince accompanied by a direwolf and a spearwife. Ima bet against. (Although, of course not)

Well, yes I agree on Arya so long as Cersei has power in KL, but she's been losing her grip and other players are rising. So the Northern calculation is not only about who Tommen approves. And this would be where White Harbour's connection to the wider world comes into it. Manderly knows Cersei has some serious problems, old and new. The North needs to hold tight until the 5 kings hostages are back home but beyond that there is not one of them who is all that concerned with who Cersei and King Tommen want in power. And Wylis Manderly is already back. Basically the Greatjon is the only thing keeping this from being an open revolt against KL, which means maintaining the charade of fake Arya is not in their interest in the near future.

As for Rickon, I am sure Davos will succeed and Rickon will return. So when he does, the question is what do these Northern lords do about it? We know Davos cannot bring Rickon to White Harbour because it has too many eyes and ears, such as that Lannister maester. Plus, Rickon would stand out too much there. The only place he doesn't stand out is among wildlings, which is why it seems likely the path home for him is connected to the Hardhome survivors who are stranded there, and the route must lead either to Crowfood Umber or to Stannis. Crowfood seems most likely because they need someone on the outside of Winterfell who can communicate with those inside after receiving Rickon. But if so, it is worth questioning what Crowfood would do with him.

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On 3/26/2021 at 10:10 AM, The hairy bear said:

Obviously, the 600 guards of the Deadford that followed Ramsay's command's are also in the know. And 600 men are just too many to keep such a secret. And it's impossible that no one out of the few thousands of men that formed the Northern army managed to flee. So I'm sure that by now every lord in the North knows that Ramsay was the one who sacked Winterfell.

Interesting point, though perhaps that is more a suspension of disbelief thing. There is not a single character included in this scenario who has been given any depth or even a name, so that being the means by which the truth has become known seems doubtful. I think, rather, we are meant to believe that Bolton men are highly loyal - probably because they are terrified, much like Reek. So no, unlikely as it seems, there are no signs at all that any of them have said anything.

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Please help string together plausible predictions with the fewest possible assumptions and the most solid basis in the story as already told. Here are some fact-based basic assumptions:

1. Robb's will: If we assume the will arrived in the North, that means that Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover also arrived but have been keeping themselves hidden and presumed dead. From the maps it seems that both Deepwood Motte and Bear Island would be accessible by boat from Greywater Watch for those who know the way. Deepwood was won back for the Glovers by Stannis, who was joined there by Alysanne Mormont. So at this point both Bear Island and Deepwood can be considered bases for Robb Stark loyalists who know about their King's wish for his succession. They are also both places where small seeds have been planted for an alliance with anti-Euron Ironborn via Asha. Let's call that the West Coast group.

2. Skagos is about to enter the story via Davos. There are probable cultural similarities between Skagosi and Thenns. The Thenns are now established at Karhold via Alys's wedding, meaning that Karstark/Thenn is now the closest House to Skagos on the mainland, the other Karstarks having left for Winterfell. Cregan Karstark will most likely be set free by the Watch mutineers but without fighters he would be unlikely to be able to gain entry to Karhold so must join the Boltons. Finally, House Umber has split their allegiance so are playing both sides. They worked with House Manderly to build the fleet so some ties have been established, but the Umbers are not keen on child overlords. Their leader needs to win their respect much like wildlings. Finally, added to the mix is the rivalry between the Umbers, Karstarks, Manderlys over the Hornwood. All three Houses attempted to gain control of the Horwood via marriage to lady Hornwood before Ramsay attacked. So the Hornwood lands are a thing Ramsay can now offer to get what he needs from the Karstarks and the Umbers while also being a thing that weakens their fragile alliance with House Manderly. Let's call the very fragile group of Karstark(Thenn)/Umber/Manderly/Magnar the East Coast group. There are some seeds of cooperation but also seeds of betrayal there. The Eastern group is also all tied up in a mess with the Hardhome mission and Rickon's reappearance making things much murkier in the East.

3. Vale ties to the North and the Riverlands, plus Sansa's presence there make it inevitable that the Vale is coming North. Sansa can not be open about who she is with Cersei/Tommen allies just yet, however Cersei is losing her grip, and House Bolton has no use for overlords who are losing power. The betrayed Robb and they will just as easily side against Cersei. Given the Vale's ties to the Freys (Waynwood and Royce) and Boltons (Redfort) the most likely scenario is that the Vale will join the Bolton side of the Northern conflict at least at first.

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I'm not interested in a northern conspiracy but I would love be to get a "dance of the direwolves" conflict going between two of the Starks. It's their turn to have a family crisis. 

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1 hour ago, Moiraine Sedai said:

I'm not interested in a northern conspiracy but I would love be to get a "dance of the direwolves" conflict going between two of the Starks. It's their turn to have a family crisis. 

I think there is already an internal tension in the Stark family. It revolves around the two opposing qualities of "shaggy" and "sharp." Bran articulates this when he is in the crypt and sees statues of ancestors that are either clean-shaven or bearded. We also get hints about it in the name of Shaggy Dog and in Qhorin Halfhand asking Jon Snow several times whether his sword is sharp in the hours before Jon Snow cuts Qhorin's throat with that sword, whereupon Qhorin utters his last word, "Sharp." 

Beyond many references to beards, haircuts, razors and edges, though, I'm not sure where GRRM is going with the contrast.

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4 hours ago, Hippocras said:

... predictions with the fewest possible assumptions ... Here are some fact-based basic assumptions

It's hard to avoid making assumptions, isn't it? Good readers make predictions, though, and interpreting literature is a fun game even though fiction can't really be called fact-based. 

4 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Robb Stark loyalists

My sense is that the northern houses aren't really Robb Stark loyalists; they are Stark loyalists. I think we have to interpret the clues based on northern and Stark loyalties, not where the players were in relation to Robb (although some of the clues did play out in his circle of bannermen). 

4 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Skagos is about to enter the story

I have the sneaking suspicion that we will never see Skagos from a direct POV present on the soil. I may be wrong but I think GRRM is going to treat it as a legendary place such as Naath or Asshai. We may hear stories about things that happened there, but he won't show it to us directly. 

4 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Cregan Karstark will most likely be set free by the Watch mutineers but without fighters he would be unlikely to be able to gain entry to Karhold so must join the Boltons.

An important detail about Cregan is that, on Jon Snow's order, Wick Whittlestick - one of the guys who will end up stabbing Jon Snow - releases Cregan from his ice cell and rehouses him in the Lord Commander's tower. Recall that Jon Snow never moved into that tower after the fire damage caused during the wight attack. The symbolism here tells me that Cregan might take a command position among the various factions vying for control at Castle Black. (Not necessarily at the head of the mutineers - we also have Queen's Men, Free Folk, loyal Night's Watch members, Moles Town people, etc.) 

4 hours ago, Hippocras said:

the Hornwood lands are a thing Ramsay can now offer

Ramsay may not have the power here that he thinks he has. Again, looking at a key detail: Lady Hornwood ate her own fingers while she was locked up in a tower.

Parallels in the books are Stannis cutting off the fingers from Davos as punishment for smuggling and Biter eating the fingers from the dead guards in the dungeon at Harrenhal after the Weasel Soup incident. Melisandre has told us that finger bones can be used to make a glamor - a magic spell that controls another person and forces them to do your bidding. The Stannis / Davos and Biter / guards parallels represent power and control situations with Stannis and Biter's crew (with Biter possibly representing Jaqen, although Arya believes it is the northern Bannermen led by House Glover; or maybe the Brave Companions at that point or, ultimately, the Boltons) taking control through loyalty and/or force.

Again, just one interpretation, but the fact is that Lady Hornwood "retains" her fingers under her own control and does not allow Ramsay to "take her hand" in marriage. In an important sense, Ramsay may not have control of this strategic, symbolic House Hornwood and its lands. In fact, I think House Hornwood is a metaphor for control of the North. You are right to put it at the center of the strategic maneuvers for succession or for a Stark restoration, but Ramsay is likely to be surprised to find he does not have the power to dispose of the Hornwood title or lands.

It might be relevant to recall that Lady Hornwood seemed to be attracted to Ser Rodrik Cassel, the castellan at Winterfell. I think he was symbolic of Winterfell castle itself and is a major clue to the rock-solid loyalty of House Hornwood. 

4 hours ago, Hippocras said:

the most likely scenario is that the Vale will join the Bolton side of the Northern conflict at least at first

I don't see this at all. I think the Boltons are stuck with their Frey and Lannister alliance. (I don't think Cersei is losing power at this point, anyway, so I don't think the Boltons want to abandon her.) 

I think Littlefinger is turning Sansa into the new Catelyn - not because he wants to marry her but because she has the potential to be a major player in the Game of Thrones; a counter-force against Cersei. I don't get a sense that an alliance with House Bolton is where Littlefinger is going with his complex maneuvers. I wish I had a better sense of his larger ambitions, but I suspect he is a hidden Targaryen or Blackfyre (or a hybrid) and that he wants to bring back a Blackfyre or Targaryen monarch. He is also an "heir" of House Arryn, in the way that GRRM plays around with symbolic lines of succession so he may see an Arryn heir as a worthy king. House Bolton just seems beneath Littlefinger's notice; part of he chaos he likes to see but not important to his central goal.

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1 hour ago, Seams said:

I think there is already an internal tension in the Stark family. It revolves around the two opposing qualities of "shaggy" and "sharp." Bran articulates this when he is in the crypt and sees statues of ancestors that are either clean-shaven or bearded. We also get hints about it in the name of Shaggy Dog and in Qhorin Halfhand asking Jon Snow several times whether his sword is sharp in the hours before Jon Snow cuts Qhorin's throat with that sword, whereupon Qhorin utters his last word, "Sharp." 

Beyond many references to beards, haircuts, razors and edges, though, I'm not sure where GRRM is going with the contrast.

Yeah but it shouldn't be a simple family spat. It needs to be a true dance of the direwolves with the Starks fighting each other for Winterfell.  

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39 minutes ago, Seams said:

My sense is that the northern houses aren't really Robb Stark loyalists; they are Stark loyalists. I think we have to interpret the clues based on northern and Stark loyalties, not where the players were in relation to Robb (although some of the clues did play out in his circle of bannermen). 

I guess what I mean is, rather than one single grand conspiracy as I have seen outlined in various theories, there seems likely to be disagreement between the various Northern houses who are opposed to the Boltons about whether they should follow the birthright (Rickon) or Robb's will (Jon). Maybe that would be straightforward if Jon had not taken vows to serve the Watch, but as it stands, either Stark presents problems, with Houses having different preferences.

44 minutes ago, Seams said:

I have the sneaking suspicion that we will never see Skagos from a direct POV present on the soil. I may be wrong but I think GRRM is going to treat it as a legendary place such as Naath or Asshai. We may hear stories about things that happened there, but he won't show it to us directly. 

Whether we actually see Skagos directly or not, they are entering the story. Some of the Night's Watch is stranded there, as is the Elephant. The Elephant was one of Salador Saan's ships so Davos will know the ship and surviving crew, and they were transporting wildling women and children to slavery from Hardhome. So Davos's mission to fetch Rickon on Skagos is all tied up in a tangle with the Hardhome rescue attempts and with the future of the Night's Watch. This means we will most certainly meet some Skagosi even if we never are taken via POV to Skagos.

48 minutes ago, Seams said:

An important detail about Cregan is that, on Jon Snow's order, Wick Whittlestick - one of the guys who will end up stabbing Jon Snow - releases Cregan from his ice cell and rehouses him in the Lord Commander's tower. Recall that Jon Snow never moved into that tower after the fire damage caused during the wight attack. The symbolism here tells me that Cregan might take a command position among the various factions vying for control at Castle Black. (Not necessarily at the head of the mutineers - we also have Queen's Men, Free Folk, loyal Night's Watch members, Moles Town people, etc.) 

Interesting and true. Cregan could join the Watch mutineers rather than the Boltons. And your post brings to mind the interference of King's Landing in Watch affairs, with Cregan being yet one more means by which Cersei may have carried out her stated desire to have Jon assassinated.

51 minutes ago, Seams said:

Ramsay may not have the power here that he thinks he has. Again, looking at a key detail: Lady Hornwood ate her own fingers while she was locked up in a tower.

Ramsay only ever rules by fear anywhere, so I don't see why Hornwood men would be different from Bolton men. By the same authority that makes Roose Warden of the North, Ramsay is Lord of the Hornwood.

 

1 hour ago, Seams said:

I don't see this at all. I think the Boltons are stuck with their Frey and Lannister alliance. (I don't think Cersei is losing power at this point, anyway, so I don't think the Boltons want to abandon her.) 

That's the point though. The Redforts are connected to House Bolton already and the Waynwoods have intermarried multiple times with the Freys. They host several Freys as wards and squires. The connections to the Bolton side of the conflict are already established, without any corresponding ties between rebel Houses and the Vale.

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6 hours ago, Moiraine Sedai said:

Yeah but it shouldn't be a simple family spat. It needs to be a true dance of the direwolves with the Starks fighting each other for Winterfell.  

I think thats probable

12 hours ago, Hippocras said:

Please help string together plausible predictions with the fewest possible assumptions and the most solid basis in the story as already told

Alright hear me out.

Rickon is deliberately being thrown into the game with the sole objective of dethroning his sister. Theres a strong chance the boy and his wolf will end up in Manderly or Umber hands. Shaggydog will solidify local conscription while Rickons age and temperament may reject it.

 

Arya is a prisoner of Stannis and also likely to draw recruits like he did when Big Buckets marched. This scenario is more of a masquerade of direwolves but Arya does exist. And although she has no wants of politics she does have a longing for home and a severe lack of self acknowledgement. Arya Bolton of Winterfell may be a startling sign that Arya must go home. Like her brother she does, and may soon have, a direwolf to identify herself as the real slim shady. Like her brother too, or way fucking more, her temperament may cause Winterfells subjects to reject her. Arya will be an antagonist to Jeyne and a probable enemy to the conniving great lords of the north that will control Rickon

 

Sansa, like her sister, has a deep want of returning home. Petyr however has no wish of going to the dreary place. Yet Sansas wish to reconcile, or perhaps something nefarious, with Arya will take command of the Vale knights who want to march north anyway in assistance of their cousins. Things between Alayne and her father may take a turn for the worse when Jeyne is revealed to be Boltons gift by ones truly. Alaynes mastery of politics will draw some to her cause, although Mrs. Hardying will be of lack of some recognition while her other Vale constituents will remember Mrs. Halfman which is sure to complicate matters. Through this confusion I believe Sansa may harm her siblings, especially when some backers will bring up Robbs will

 

Jon has been named heir by the conniving great lords of the Riverlands like Mallister and will be sure to treat Alayne or Sansa or Jeyne or Arya, even baby Rickon as an enemy. Jon however is not your grandfathers Lord Commander, he seems to be headed south to free Jeyne, and is fully capable of bringing his nightwatch brothers and wildlings with him. Jon back from the dead will still not want to harm his siblings but may through the confusion.

 

Catelyn may be capable of wishing harm on Jon. Although shes in the south and thanks to Jaime and Brienne she will know Jeyne isnt the real deal and will thusly be hesitant to interact with her unlike the other Starks. However Cat with her army is now north of the neck and in possession of Robbs crown, if word of Cats other children comes forward Cat will rush to Winterfell to fight her childrens puppet masters. LSH consequentially will receive lots of push back because of her irregular army and her general zombieness.

 

Bran, like Jeyne or Wyman, is actively partaking in the politics of Winterfell by sending signs to Theon. What Brans plan is is beyond me but I believe that Brans interference is the best chance the Starks have of avoiding a dance of direwolves

 

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