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When did Melisandre arrive to Dragonstone?


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A Game of Thrones - Tyrion IX

His father frowned. “I have felt from the beginning that Stannis was a greater danger than all the others combined. Yet he does nothing. Oh, Varys hears his whispers. Stannis is building ships, Stannis is hiring sellswords, Stannis is bringing a shadowbinder from Asshai. What does it mean? Is any of it true?”

A Clash of Kings - Tyrion III

“Varys told us some years past that Lady Selyse had taken up with a red priest,” Littlefinger reminded them.

Littlefinger talked about a red priest not a red priestess. Are we sure that this was Mel or was there another red priest before Mel?


A Game of Thrones - Arya III

Stannis Baratheon and Lysa Arryn have fled beyond my reach, and the whispers say they are gathering swords around them. 

The curious thing is that Varys did not mention to Illyrio that Stannis also had a shadowbinder under his service. Why did he omit that? Varys has no reason to hold anything back from Illyrio and he is a first hand witness of magic is real.

Is it because Mel has not arrived (or he had not heard yet) when they had this conversation? That means Mel arrived only several months before the appearance of the comet, which means there was indeed a red priest that came several years ago.



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It is quite clear that Melisandre must have been on Dragonstone for quite some time before 298 AC, years, in fact, since we have information that Selyse hooked up with a red priest some years back. It would have taken Melisandre considerable time to win Selyse's trust. It is pretty much implied that the red priest in question there is Melisandre since there is no indication that Selyse ever had close ties to another red priest.

With Stannis spending most of his time at court prior to Jon Arryn's death - and Selyse and Shireen visiting him there only infrequently - Melisandre only starts to become to become an important political factor after Stannis removes himself to Dragonstone permanently. That gives Selyse and Melisandre and 'the queen's men' the opportunity to try to influence him. And we see the end of that process in Cressen's Prologue.

By the time of the Prologue, even before Cressen's death, many men on Dragonstone fear Melisandre, including Cressen himself That is a reputation she must have earned somehow - presumably by doing shady things before and after Stannis retreated to Dragonstone. The idea would be that whatever infrequent whispers Varys received from Dragonstone before and after Stannis closed the harbor would revolve around Melisandre's special powers and such. That would be what the rumors about the shadowbinder refer to. The news Tywin received from Varys might have included an update on Melisandre, revealing that she was not just a red priest but also a shadowbinder - something people may not have known originally. It is not that every red priest is some shady dangerous person - just think of Thoros of Myr.

The idea that Varys never told Illyrio about Melisandre is pretty much without basis, by the way. We know Illyrio and Varys talked before and after Arya overheard them, meaning they had ample time and opportunity to talk about a variety of topics. Not to mention that they would have other means to stay in contact - sending letters back and forth, using messengers, etc.

However, back during the crisis of 298 AC Stannis was a minor concern. Varys and Illyrio wanted to keep Robert alive and postpone the civil war. If Stannis had started to run amok with the royal fleet and a shadowbinder then this would have been unfortunate, but it was the prospect of Robert's sudden death and the conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters that had the potential to cause a big civil war, not so much what Stannis and his shadowbinder might do.

Varys may only have fully realized what kind of threat Melisandre is after Renly's death. But the fact that he quickly concludes that they are dealing with a real sorceress here might imply he also received other reports about shady things Melisandre did prior to that - the death of Cressen, for example, but possibly other things as well.

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